Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said that both he and the new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris have discussed accountability and the importance of the garda reform programme in their first formal meeting.

In a statement released following the meeting, Mr Flanagan said they held a "wide ranging" discussion which "reflected the nature of challenges facing police forces today".

"We discussed accountability and the importance of the Garda reform programme which will ensure world class policing," the Minister said.

He said the other issues discussed were gangland crime, rural policing, cyber crime, white collar crime and roads policing. 

Drew Harris, Charlie Flanagan and Aidan O'Driscoll, Secretary General at the Department of Justice pictured at the meeting

Earlier, the association representing rank-and-file and middle-ranking gardaí called on Commissioner Harris to stand up to politicians and to be open and transparent in his dealings with Government.

The Garda Representative Association says the Commissioner's support will help bridge the disconnect between gardaí and garda management.

The association representing the vast majority of gardaí - over 12,000 rank-and-file members - says the new Commissioner must tackle a range of issues, such as low morale, the change agenda, communications, training, resources and protected disclosures.

The GRA has long complained about the gardaí being used as "a political football" and says it is imperative that he stand up to politicians, be open and transparent about the difficulties facing the gardaí and defend the organisation against political interference.

GRA President Jim Mulligan said it welcomes the fact that Commissioner Harris is from a policing background because the issues and challenges the gardaí face are generic to police in other jurisdictions.

The association is not concerned about the new Commissioner's role in security and intelligence matters in the context of his previous position in the PSNI. It says vetting was a matter for Government.

Commissioner Harris earlier said it was critical that the strong bonds An Garda Síochána has with the people, which have been vital in preventing crime and protecting and supporting communities, are maintained and enhanced.

Mr Harris, who was sworn in as Commissioner at a ceremony in Dublin in the early hours of this morning, said he will be particularly focused on ensuring the gardaí do all they can to protect the vulnerable.

In a letter sent to all gardaí, Commissioner Harris also said he envisaged a garda service that is responsive, accountable and fit for purpose with its primary objective being the safety and security of citizens.

He also promised An Garda Síochána would be transparent and open to concerns raised internally and externally.


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Chairperson of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily said she had no concerns about Mr Harris dealing with security and intelligence matters, and that he must now be given time to do the job judged on his performance.

The swearing-in ceremony took place at the new Divisional Headquarters in Kevin Street Garda Station in Dublin before an audience of justice officials, gardaí, and members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the Policing Authority and garda representative associations.

As the former deputy chief constable of the PSNI, it is the first such appointment from outside the State.

Mr Harris was first attested as a garda so that he can exercise all the powers of commissioner.

The 53-year-old then signed the oath, the garda Code of Ethics and the Official Secrets Act.

The new Commissioner stressed the importance of An Garda Síochána maintaining and enhancing its strong bonds with the people, which he said had been vital in preventing crime and protecting communities.

He promised a workplace of openness and transparency, open to internal and external concerns raised, with a management speaking and listening to all employees.

And the new commissioner praised the dedication and sacrifice of gardaí in securing the State, particularly from the threat of terrorism which had saved lives on both sides of the border.

This, he said, is work which must and will continue to be a priority.

Ms Feehily said security vetting was carried out by the Department of Justice for the Government and the authority had no concerns about security and intelligence as people all over the world transfer from one sensitive post to another in other countries.

The chairperson also said the new Commissioner needs to reassure the gardaí and the public that he can resolve the issues in An Garda Síochána and the authority will engage with him on his policing plan for next year and his strategy for the next three years.

Ms Feehily said she had no doubt that his first task would be to engage with members of An Garda Síochána and that very early after that there would be public engagement.

President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors Antoinette Cunningham said the AGSI was keen to see what leadership Mr Harris would bring at this critical time for An Garda Síochána.

She also said that Commissioner Harris' biggest challenge will come when the Commission on the Future of Policing is published in just over two weeks' time.

She said it would be interesting to see the recommendations of the report and how they will be implemented.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, she said her organisation would "work in a spirit of co-operation with him, as we would with any commissioner."