Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Outsider' Garda Commissioner must embrace his past if he is to succeed in future

New Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: PA
New Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: PA
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The new Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, who takes charge in the Phoenix Park this morning, has a mountain to climb.

That challenge was there, irrespective of whoever was selected to head an organisation that has been in crisis for several years.

The new boss inherits a force that has been in turmoil as a result of a series of high-profile catastrophes and struggling to improve morale battered by what has seemed never ending criticism from all quarters.

Jeremy Andrew Harris brings with him his own problems. He is an outsider, no matter how Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan attempts to spin his status.

Anyone appointed commissioner from outside the force is automatically an outsider. Gardaí form a close-knit community.

There is no officer cadre. Those whose career rise has taken them into senior management have all been promoted through the ranks and worked alongside those who either did not seek or achieve advancement.

It is inevitable that such an organisation results in cliques, although the faction fighting is not as destructive as, say, 30 years ago when there was even a divide between the plainclothes and uniformed sections.

One of the most urgent priorities for Drew Harris is to gain the trust of his management team and make them his own, and from there demonstrate by his leadership that he is entitled to the full support and respect of all ranks.

The force is in a constant whirl from the plethora of reports on reform while trying to recover from the gaps that emerged from the moratorium on recruitment and promotion during the recession.

But his most immediate problem is to deal with his past. As a former deputy chief constable of the PSNI, he must explain how that will affect his performance as Garda Commissioner and, more specifically, his role as head of terrorist intelligence and liaison officer with the British security service, MI5.

Drew Harris must now answer many questions and will have that opportunity at his first press conference tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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