New Garda chief vows to focus on protecting vulnerable

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Ireland’s next Garda Commissioner has pledged to focus on protecting the vulnerable.

Drew Harris, 53, has become the first Irish police chief appointed from outside the state and said he was honoured to join the force at a time of change.

The enormously experienced outgoing Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) deputy chief constable has a history of close co-operation with his colleagues south of the border on issues such as tackling terrorism.

He takes up his position in September after winning an international recruitment competition.

Mr Harris said: “Throughout my career I have been concerned and driven by the need to protect society and in particular the vulnerable, and that will be my focus over the next five years as commissioner, keeping people on the island of Ireland safe and helping to secure the state.”

He is a former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer and his officer father Alwyn was killed by an IRA bomb in 1989.

As the 21st Garda commissioner, he will maintain common cause with the PSNI as it tackles the ongoing violent threat from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

He will also face the challenges posed by Brexit to cross-border policing.

Mr Harris leads the Garda at a time of major reform.

His predecessor as commissioner stepped aside after an “unending cycle” of questions over her role.

Noirin O’Sullivan said she had been trying to rectify the failures and mistakes of the past.

There were queries over how she dealt with officers inflating the number of breathalyser tests carried out and police whistleblowers.

More recently, concerns have emerged about police record-keeping.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Our priority was to get the best person for the job, and we have done that.”

Mr Harris has spent 34 years as a police officer and has experience of a Northern Ireland policing environment transformed from his period in the RUC during the years of paramilitary conflict.

He is an expert in high-risk covert policing operations and critical incidents.

Mr Harris said he came to the force at a “time of change” and added it was a privilege to lead and support the Garda.

He recalled working with his Republic of Ireland colleagues over many years on successful operations.

“I recognise what an important role this is in society.”

He will receive a salary of 250,000 euro, increased from 180,000 to attract interest.

Mr Harris was appointed to the rank of PSNI Assistant Chief Constable responsible for crime operations in 2006 and has served as deputy chief constable since 2014.

He has managed serious crime investigations, was responsible for all intelligence gathering, operations and analytical support for the PSNI and worked closely with the Garda.

The father of four has a degree in politics and economics and a Master’s in criminology.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “He is a man of unfathomable strength, humility and grace and I have been privileged to have him serve as my deputy chief constable for almost four years.”

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