Sinn Fein told to apologise for row as Drew Harris appointed new PSNI Deputy Chief Constable
Members of the Policing Board have demanded that Sinn Fein apologises for casting doubt over the selection process used to appoint Drew Harris as the PSNI's new Deputy Chief Constable.
Mr Harris – who sanctioned the arrest of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams as part of the investigation into the murder of Belfast woman Jean McConville – was yesterday chosen by the Policing Board to replace Judith Gillespie, who retired in March.
Only two candidates – Mr Harris and his fellow Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr – had applied for the post.
The appointment process was thrown into uncertainty on Monday when Sinn Fein Policing Board member Caitriona Ruane withdrew from the selection panel. She claimed that the process may have been compromised and demanded a new recruitment process. Sinn Fein yesterday refused to explain why it believed the process may have been flawed, but said it would support Mr Harris in his new postition
DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig accused Sinn Fein of playing games and said the party "does not want to be seen supporting the man who arrested their party leader".
"I'm struggling to hear anyone explain what the procedural problem is.
"There is a hidden agenda here. Caitriona Ruane needs to explain her actions to the board and apologise to the board for making public statements while a process was taking place," he added.
SDLP board member Dolores Kelly branded Ms Ruane's actions "irresponsible and reprehensible".
"I think Sinn Fein should apologise to both candidates who were caught up in this and to the panel members whose integrity was questioned by her remarks," Ms Kelly added.
The DUP's David McIlveen, who was a member of the interview panel that recommended the appointment of Mr Harris, said: "I think a message was sent out by Sinn Fein – if you are a police officer and you sign an arrest warrant of any member within Sinn Fein, as Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris did, then your prospects of promotion, as far as Sinn Fein is concerned, are considerably limited."
Sinn Fein board member Gerry Kelly said Ms Ruane had raised concerns over the selection process with him, but he stressed that it had nothing to do with the two candidates.
"We will be working with Drew Harris... we support law and order.
"We support the (PSNI's) senior executive team.
"We are there with them to support and to be critical. That is what the Policing Board is there for," Mr Kelly said.
Justice Minister David Ford approved the selection panel's recommendation to appoint Mr Harris after seeking assurances from the Policing Board chair and chief executive about the selection process. Mr Harris, a married father-of-four, has been a police officer for three decades
When he was criticised by Sinn Fein for his involvement in the arrest of Mr Adams, former Chief Constable Matt Baggott praised him as one of the most professional officers he had worked with and who had "saved many lives".
His father Alwyn Harris, a superintendent in the RUC, was killed by an IRA bomb in October 1989.
The Semtex device placed under his car exploded as he was on his way to church from his home in Lisburn.
His wife, who was with him, escaped with minor injuries.
Drew Harris, who has 30 years' experience within the police, was an Assistant Chief Constable, responsible for the PSNI's Crime Operations Department, before his appointment as Deputy Chief Constable. His portfolio includes Organised Crime, Major Investigation Team and Intelligence Branch.