Belfast Telegraph

Harris process fears 'not valid'

Concerns about the appointment of Northern Ireland's new deputy chief constable were unfounded, the Assembly has heard.

Justice Minister David Ford told MLAs he did not give credit to Sinn Fein's claims that the recruitment process had been flawed.

Mr Ford said: "It certainly appeared to me that the concerns that were raised were not valid."

Drew Harris was made deputy chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) two weeks ago as a replacement for Judith Gillespie who retired earlier this year.

Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane withdrew from the Policing Board recruitment panel amid concerns the process had been compromised.

Mr Ford revealed he had summoned the South Down MLA to explain the concerns directly. But, speaking during Question Time at the Assembly he said the promotion had been approved because be believed it had been made "properly".

Mr Ford added: "I believe the appointment was made properly, that's why I confirmed it."

Unionists have accused Sinn Fein of trying to politically interfere with the recruitment process because Mr Harris, a former assistant chief constable with the PSNI, sanctioned the arrest of the party leader earlier this year.

Gerry Adams was detained and questioned for four days at Antrim police station about the IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.

He was later released without charge.

The PSNI had been hoping to attract a wide interest in the post of deputy chief constable but only two candidates - Mr Harris and his fellow assistant chief constable Will Kerr - applied.

Mr Harris's father was a senior police officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1989.

West Belfast MLA Pat Sheehan told the Assembly chamber there were "serious flaws and anomalies" in the recruitment process.

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