RTÉ Radio 1
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)