Legal challenge to appointment of new Garda commissioner rejected

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A legal bid to challenge the appointment of Ireland’s new police chief has fallen at the first hurdle.

An application for a judicial review into the hiring of former Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) deputy chief constable Drew Harris as Garda commissioner was dismissed by a judge in Dublin’s High Court.

Ciaran MacAirt, whose grandmother Kathleen Irvine was killed during The Troubles, was seeking the go-ahead for a full judicial hearing of his application to block Mr Harris’s appointment.

Justice Denis McDonald said on Wednesday that the application did not meet the requirements for leave, and had little chance of success, had it proceeded through the courts.

“I have significant sympathy for the applicant for his appalling family tragedy, but the court’s fundamental rule is, unless there is a very strong reason to take a different view, there is no reason to do so.

“All the allegations relied upon took place in Northern Ireland, no allegations were made that there is any ongoing investigation into the atrocity where the applicant’s grandmother was killed.

“Or any mention of any investigation by Gardai that Mr Harris would have been involved in.

“I cannot think I have any alternative in this case.”

Mr MacAirt had argued Mr Harris’s previous roles in the PSNI and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and his associated connections with the UK security and intelligence community, rendered him unsuitable to lead the Irish Republic’s police force.

Legal challenge against Garda chief appointment fails
Ciaran MacAirt, whose grandmother was killed in the McGurk’s Bar bombing in Belfast, at the High Court in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Nothing in the affidavit suggests that it satisfies the requirements needed for a leave,” said the judge.

He added: “The applicant has not shown he has an arguable case.”

Mr MacAirt’s legal team had argued there was a clear conflict of interest in Mr Harris taking the role as he is bound by the UK’s Official Secrets Act in regard to past investigations into Troubles incidents.

In response, the State insisted the application had no merit and was motivated by a personal gripe held by the applicant.

Mr MacAirt’s grandmother was one of 15 people killed by loyalists in the bombing of McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in 1971.

Mr Harris became the first Irish police chief appointed from outside the Republic when he was announced as the new commissioner in June.

He is due to officially take up the role on September 3.

Outside the High Court Mr MacAirt said he would speak to other victims before deciding on his next steps.

“We’re very very disappointed, the judge gave us a lot of points, so we will be going back to Belfast and taking time to consider those.

“We’re expecting a written judgment today and it will take a certain amount of time to go through that.

“I’m a younger family member of a campaign group so I will discuss this with my peers before we move forward.”

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