Belfast Telegraph

Plot to kill Garda chief Drew Harris at murdered father's grave

 

By Ciaran Barnes

New Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was the target of a cemetery murder plot by dissident republicans.

Sunday Life can reveal that the Continuity IRA planned to kill the former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable while he visited the grave of his dad Alwyn, an RUC superintendent who was murdered aged 55 by the Provos in 1989.

Details of the assassination bid were secretly recorded on listening devices hidden by MI5 at a house in Ardcarn Park, Newry, which allegedly hosted Continuity IRA meetings.

Nine men are to go on trial charged with various offences connected to the contents of the tapes including leading republican and Omagh bomb suspect Patrick 'Mooch' Blair (63), and prominent Belfast dissident Liam Hannaway (47).

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Liam Hannaway..

A court was previously told that the group discussed plots to kill judges, PSNI officers and attack Policing Board meetings.

Among the targets named were Drew Harris, who at the time of the November 2014 arrests, was PSNI Deputy Chief Constable.

Sources close to the case told Sunday Life that the Continuity IRA was aware the top cop was a regular visitor to his father Alwyn's grave, often going there at the same time each week.

An insider revealed: "The Continuity IRA was aware that a very senior policeman (Drew Harris) makes regular visits to his father's graveside, almost at the same time every week.

"The plan was to attach a booby trap bomb next to the headstone which would be detonated when he laid flowers there.

"Luckily the dissidents involved were recorded talking about the attack and the officer in question was warned."

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Alwyn Harris

Our source explained how Continuity IRA leaders had no regard for the public outcry leaving a bomb in a cemetery would provoke.

"It didn't bother them if it meant murdering a senior police officer," he added.

"Nor did the fact that the bomb could have killed anyone standing near the graveside, including children who often run around cemeteries climbing over graves."

After being sworn in as Garda Commissioner earlier this month Mr Harris spoke of how his murdered dad would have been "exceptionally proud" of his appointment.

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Convicted IRA bomb maker, Patrick Blair (Known as "Mooch" Blair) Pic: Collins

The 52-year-old, who has been advised to always be with armed protection in public, said: "My father would have been very proud of me, the way any father would be of their son.

"He would have always wanted me to do well, to bring up my family, work hard at my job, which was police work. I think he would be exceptionally proud of the position I have attained."

Recalling his dad's IRA under-car booby trap bomb killing, Mr Harris added: "It was a terrible time. In some ways it remains, for me, beyond description and it has reverberated down through the years as well.

"I think it actually shapes your approach to humanity and what sort of person you are. I have worked, and certainly worked hard in those early years, to try not to be bitter and I hope I have succeeded in that."

Mr Harris, who describes himself as "Irish", also talked about being under threat from dissident republicans, but did not reference the Continuity IRA plot to murder him at his father's graveside.

He has described dissident republican terrorism as "the biggest threat on the island of Ireland" and said they are "determined" to carry out attacks.

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph

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