Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire RTÉ Morning Ireland 27 June 2018

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Audrey Carville speaks to Sinn Féin’s Justice and Equality spokesperson, Cork South-Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, about the appointment of Drew Harris as the new Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. (begins time stamp ~ 5:02)

Audrey:   We can talk to Sinn Féin Justice spokesman, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, now. Good Morning!

Donnchadh:   Good Morning.

Audrey:   Are you happy to work with Drew Harris as the new Garda Commissioner?

Donnchadh:  

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire
Source: Oireachtas.ie

Sinn Féin will work constructively with the new Commissioner; we have worked with him in the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). We will hold him to account as we have previous commissioners and previous senior officers of the PSNI. We had a preference that this appointment would be made after the Commission on the Future of Policing reported – there’s a number of reasons for that – having said that, the process undertaken by the policing authority is now complete, there is no Garda Commissioner in place and we will work with him and we will hold him to account. We have very high standards for policing…

Audrey:    …You heard very strong comments there though from Stephen Travers who described his appointment as: a hammer-blow to every victim of collusion by the British security services. And he said: the damage by this appointment that’s been done to the Irish government’s relationship to the Nationalist community in The North is catastrophic.

Donnchadh:    Well the PSNI has been criticised by the courts in The North for its failure to comply with court judgments, demanding disclosure of information relevant to legacy inquests, civil proceedings or inquiries from the Ombudsman and that has left many families and victims’ groups frustrated and feeling very let down by the PSNI. And the failure to provide families the truth about the death of their loved ones has affected public confidence in the new policing arrangements. We will continue…

Audrey:   …and Drew Harris is the second most senior police officer in The North…

Donnchadh:   …we will continue to pursue the PSNI through every avenue possible to ensure that they cease blocking any information being given, such as legacy inquests, but we also want to see, central to ensuring that families and victims get truth and justice is that the legacy mechanisms agreed by both governments and the political parties in The North are delivered. They were agreed at Stormont House but we’ve seen no progress on that.

Audrey:   What do you expect Drew Harris to do in relation to the biggest unsolved crime in this state, being the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of 1974, and about which there have been very serious allegations of collusion between the bombers and the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) and the UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) and given that he had responsibility for all intelligence matters from 2008 onwards? What should he do about that now as Garda Commission?

Donnchadh:   We would expect An Garda Síochána, including the Garda Commissioner, to pursue that as much as possible but we would also expect…

Audrey:   …pursue that as far as possible – how?…

Donnchadh:   …the biggest (crosstalk) the biggest – the biggest obstacle that has existed in relation to the Dublin-Monaghan bombing has been the failure of the British government to release files and we would expect that the Irish government – and we don’t believe that they have done enough on this over the years, we don’t believe that they have properly pursued the Dublin-Monaghan bombings – the most important thing is that they pursue the British government to try and ensure that the relevant files are obtained and…

Audrey:   …But won’t Drew Harris be sitting in a very critical position with access or knowledge of, at least, some vital information?

Donnchadh:   And it’s absolutely important that An Garda Síochána pursues this as much as possible and it’s important that it is not simply a matter of that it is simply one person’s responsibility – it needs to be the responsibility of ALL An Garda Síochána – but it also is important that we have strong accountability and oversight mechanisms here and that relates to issues of national security as well. And…

Audrey:  …He said also in private evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal that there was intelligence to indicate that several Garda officers had colluded in the murders of RUC Officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan. Should he pursue that now?

Donnchadh:  Well clearly, like I mean, that is a very serious statement. It’s been one that’s been, that was refuted, I believe, by the Gardí’s counsel in the Smithwick Tribunal. The Smithwick Tribunal has come to a conclusion and has made its conclusions. I do believe that it is important that…

Audrey:  …But if the Garda Commissioner believes that several Garda officers colluded in murdering two policemen – shouldn’t he pursue that as the Garda Commissioner?

Donnchadh:   Collusion, North or South, is something that is very serious, something that we have been very keen to highlight. It was a matter that was, frankly it was dismissed not so terribly long ago, but I think more and more it has come to light – the extent of collusion that existed. If there is collusion then it needs to be pursued and…

Audrey:   …Just finally: Just a few years ago Martin McGuinness talked about ‘dark forces’ in the PSNI – people wanting to settle old scores whatever the political cost. It was shortly after Gerry Adams had been arrested in connection with the murder of Jean McConville for which he was released without charge – and many people thought Martin McGuinness was talking about Drew Harris at the time. Have you changed your view on him?

Donnchadh:   I don’t believe there’s any indication that he was speaking about him and like, I mean, it is our view that, like, the PSNI is currently – there has been – and we’ve made this the central point – we clearly had significant criticisms about the RUC – it was an unaccountable, unrepresentative and partial police force which was responsible for significant human rights abuses – that’s the reason that we made policing reform a central part of our negotiations and clearly now there is strict accountability in the controls in the PSNI but that journey is not completed and we need to complete that…

Audrey:   …Okay. You opposed the Patten Report – let’s not forget. Thank you very much, indeed – Sinn Féin’s Justice spokesman, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire. (ends time stamp ~10:30)

Stephen Travers RTÉ Morning Ireland 27 June 2018

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Audrey Carville speaks to Miami Showband Massacre survivor, Stephen Travers, about the appointment of Drew Harris as the new Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. (begins time stamp 0:00)

Audrey:   Drew Harris will be the new Garda Commissioner. He’s Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) who began his career in the old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary). He’s the first non-citizen of the Republic to fill the post. For several years Mr. Harris was Assistant Chief Constable in command of the PSNI Crime Operations Department – that incorporated everything to do with intelligence gathering plus serious crime. He was promoted to Deputy Chief Constable four years ago. We’ll hear Sinn Féin’s reaction to his appointment in a moment.

The Miami Showband

But first, I’ve been speaking to a survivor of the the Miami Showband Murders – three members of the band were taken from their tour bus and shot dead on a country road after a gig in Banbridge, Co. Down, in July 1975.

The Crime Scene

They were traveling back to Dublin when a fake British Army patrol made up of UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) soldiers and UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) members stopped them at a bogus checkpoint outside Newry. In 2011, a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) raised collusion concerns around the involvement of an RUC Special Branch agent. Well Stephen Travers survived the attack. He told me a while ago why he was angry about Drew Harris’ appointment as the new head of An Garda Síochána.

Stephen:


Stephen Travers
Image: Michael MacSweeney
Source: Independent

Well I believe that it’s putting the fox in charge of the hen house. As a survivor of the Miami Showband Massacre I’m part of a civil action against the Chief Constable of the PSNI and the British Ministry of Defence (MoD). And during the past eight years, since our action was started, the Office of the Chief Constable, of which Drew Harris is the second most senior officer, has blocked, delayed and frustrated our every effort to access the files on those who murdered our three lads and who shot me. And just last week they gave us notice that they’re seeking a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate to block us from getting their files on the notorious RUC Special Branch agent and mass murderer, Robin Jackson, often referred to as ‘The Jackal’. Now can you imagine our new Garda Commissioner being question in relation to the Miami Showband Massacre and its cover-up?

This new appointment is a hammer-blow to every victim of collusion between British security forces and the Loyalist terrorists. This new appointment is not progressive. It’s a massive step backwards and it’s certainly not helping reconciliation.


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And while every effort is being made, and rightly so, in reconciling both communities and understanding that no side has a monopoly on suffering or loss, it’s certainly not right to reach out to one community and slap the other community in the face like this. The damage it will do to our government’s relationship, hard-won relationship, with the Nationalist community in The North will be catastrophic.

Audrey:   And yet, Drew Harris is someone, despite his own personal loss and personal tragedy, continued to work with Republicans during his time in senior roles in the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He’s seen as a trusted part of a modern, senior PSNI management and he says that there will be no conflict of loyalties when he takes up his new role.

Stephen:   Well he can swear allegiance to uphold our constitution as many times as he like but in my experience I would prefer if he just held up his hands and said: Here are the files. We will no longer block the files on the people who are responsible for the Miami Showband Massacre and indeed, Dublin-Monaghan bombing.


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I think that perhaps we should be talking as well to people like Joe Campbell – whose father was Joseph Campbell, an RUC sergeant, a decent man, who was shot and murdered in Cushendall by the Glenanne Gang of which Jackson was the leader – and we should be talking to him and getting his opinion on how badly treated he and his family – and indeed, his widowed mother – has been treated by the PSNI/RUC. Being a victim does not qualify him to take over the, our, our Garda – the Garda Commissioner role.

Audrey: That was Stephen Travers there who survived the Miami Showband Murders in July 1975. (ends time stamp 5:00)