*Violet-Anne Wynne. Photograph: John Mangan
DREW HARRIS’ position as Garda Commissioner is “untenable” according to a Clare TD.
Increasing pressure is mounting on the Garda Commissioner, Harris and Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee (FG) with last week’s Dublin riots prompting new voices to call for the top Garda official in the country to resign.
At the beginning of October, Clare TD, Violet-Anne Wynne (IND) speaking in the Dáil said that rank and file Gardaí in Co Clare had “no confidence” in the Garda Commissioner as she labelled the new operational model which no longer has a superintendent in Kilrush as “a disgraceful decision”.
She stated, “The overly central allocation of Garda resources resulted in two gardaí covering Kilkee during the busiest day of the year, the August bank holiday Saturday. Gangs of strangers came into the town, committed violent assaults and caused criminal damage to property without fear of being arrested because there was not a garda available to do so. This is a disgraceful and shameful failure of the Garda operational model that we are seeing first-hand in County Clare. This model is failing my constituents, and when I raise Garda deficits with the Minister, my questions are disallowed because the allocation of Garda resources is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo this week, Deputy Wynne commented, “the stronger community policy is not worth the paper it is written on, people don’t feel safer with the new model, I feel the position of the Garda Commissioner is untenable”.
Confidence in the Commissioner is not overly visible within the Garda ranks, Michael McNamara TD (IND) maintained. “I’m not an expert in policing but I simply don’t know (if Harris should continue or leave), clearly he is not very popular with his own rank and file Gardaí, that has to be questioned, how can he continue and inspire confidence clearly when they have said they don’t have confidence in them”.
Adequate funding for An Garda Síochána is a problem, Deputy McNamara acknowledged. “It is clear that his own members don’t have confidence in him, Gardaí need to be condident in their superiors and likewise the management need to be confident of the Gardaí on the ground”.
Chief Commissioner since September 2018, Harris has “brought a different style” to the force, Cathal Crowe TD (FF) believed. “I’m not calling for his head to roll but he has to make seismic changes, I’ve been one of his biggest critics, I’ve called him out on Garda suspensions. Nationally we have half of numbers in Clare division that are suspended, some of them have done awful things and deserve to be removed from the force entirely but others need to be acquitted of minor things, I know for a fact some of them did nothing at all. Natural justice has to play out and they are entitled to clear their names and I want to see them back to their duties.
“Drew Harris has brought in a style more appropriate to Northern Ireland, it is incompatible with the type of policing we have. I would be very critical of his attempts to overhaul the four-day roster. I see a force of Gardaí that are highly skilled and capable but fearful of carrying out their duties. Calling for a head to roll politicises an important policing matter but he does need to show more respect to rank and file Gardaí, I don’t think last Thursday night merits the resignation of the Minister for Justice or the Garda Commissioner, certain callouts were made to get people to gather to protest but I don’t think the best and brightest from the FBI or CIA could have predicted or foreseen what happened”.
Kilmurry based, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) was adamant change was needed at the top ranks. “One hundred percent he has to go. He has lost his players, he has lost the game with the way he is trying to play nowadays on how the country needs to be policed”.
Cllr O’Callaghan added, “The policing model that has been introduced over the last couple of months and years is not working. The whole modelling has changed, there’s no community garda or gardai on the beat, there’s no guards around at events and stuff, that is not being critical of them but that is the way that the new format is, there is no inter-connection unfortunately due to resources and time spent pushing pens more than pushing flesh”.
Former Chairperson of the Clare Joint Policing Committee, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) when asked on Harris’ future stated, “I don’t really have an opinion on it, that is a garda issue and up to them to resolve it, he doesn’t seem to have the confidence of the Gardaí”.