Speaking up for Drew Harris

I was talking to a man I know and like at the Féile last week. He’s an intelligent man and interested in things cultural and political, although his thinking on the latter would be some distance from my own. Just how far distant showed vividly when the subject of Drew Harris, now Garda Commissioner, arose. “It was an outstandingly good appointment – could you have imagined a cross-border move like that ten, twenty years ago?” my friend said with some feeling.

This is the way in which Harris’s appointment has been presented. The fact that his father, a senior RUC man, was killed by the IRA, made him even more suited to the post since it won win him public sympathy and served as a constant reminder of IRA violence during the Troubles.

This morning in The Irish Times,  Fintan O’Toole  links him with Susan Fitzgerald, the trade union spokesperson for the beleagured Harland and Woolf workers. She’s from working-class Dublin and the H  & W workers are happy to have her as their spokesperson. “It is not that long ago that someone (even a man) with her accent would have been run out of the shipyard.” 

Fintan is if anything more enthusiastic about Harris’s appointment:

“Even a few years ago he would never have got the chance [to lead the south’s police force]. It would have been unthinkable for a Presbyterian policemen from an RUC family, twice decorated by Queen Elizabeth, to be given arguably the most sensitive job in the south with access to all of the State’s secrets.”

That comment dovetails neatly with one from Judge Smithwick at the Smithwick Tribunal: “ [Harris] had overall responsibility for intelligence within the PSNI. In this capacity he is also responsible for interface between the PSNI and the Security Service (MI5)”.

So Harris comes south to his €250,000 per year job with access to all of the south’s ‘secrets’ and with a headful of information about the actions of the PSNI and, more significantly, MI5. That means he knows details of state collusion with loyalist death-squads, including the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and the actions of the Glenanne gang, responsible for the killing of over 100 innocent Catholics.

I don’t blame my Féile friend for overlooking this last significant detail about Harris…Well, actually I do. He should know better. But I definitely do blame Fintan O’Toole for noting Harris’s access  to the southern state’s secrets while ignoring his knowledge of the considerably murkier secrets of the state forces in the North.

Most southern people I know are shrewd and worldly, but they appear to have been led by the nose in allowing this man, with so much knowledge of foul deeds in the North, to lead their gardaí and direct their actions. Any bets on Drew Harris heading an inquiry into the Dublin/Monaghan slaughter?

Drew Harris: a state appointee enthusiastically supported by Southern media. Read and weep.

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