Wednesday, 27 June 2018
I acknowledge that Mr. Harris comes to this job with his own story of loss and pain from the conflict in the North. That cannot be minimised in any way; Mr. Harris lost his father. What also cannot be minimised or sidelined are the concerns raised by victims of British state collusion, such as those expressed by Stephen Travers of the Miami Showband on the radio this morning. Mr. Travers spoke of RUC collusion and the old RUC culture of political policing and cover up. He regards Mr. Harris as part of that culture which has denied people the truth. Similar concerns have been voiced by representatives of the Relatives for Justice campaign group. They say that Mr. Harris "has at every opportunity sought to thwart families in the search for truth and accountability", and that he "has had a stranglehold on legacy and has acted partially and with vested interest at all times".
The issue of Mr. Harris's evidence at the Smithwick tribunal being described as "nonsense" by a former Garda Commissioner has also arisen. The question of any intelligence to which Mr. Harris had access in terms of British state collusion in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings has also arisen.
Did the Taoiseach hear Stephen Travers on the radio this morning? Has he read the statement from Relatives for Justice? I believe it is appropriate for the Taoiseach to acknowledge and respond to the concerns they have expressed. Mr. Harris's main job must be to deliver radical reform of An Garda Síochána, and to develop an ethos of transparency, best practice and accountability. To do this, he must first earn the confidence and trust of the public, particularly regarding his involvement with legacy cases. He has to demonstrate that he in no way subscribes to the toxic, vindictive policing culture which necessitated the disbandment of the RUC.
How does the Taoiseach respond to Stephen Travers? What assurances can he give that the new Garda Commissioner will play the part demanded of that office in exposing collusion, uncovering truth and holding those responsible to account?