June 26, 2018 / 2:56 PM / 5 months ago

Ireland hires Northern Ireland officer to head police amid overhaul

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The Irish government on Tuesday appointed a police officer from the British region of Northern Ireland to head its scandal-hit police force, making him the first Northern Irishman and the first from outside the force to run the Irish police.

Drew Harris, the deputy chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), was chosen after he was recommended by an independent body, the government said.

Harris will take over after two police commissioners and a minister of justice stepped down in the past four years amid a series of scandals. They include allegations of a campaign to smear a whistleblower who alleged corruption in the force.

The force has also admitted to the abuse of the driving- penalty point system and exaggerating the number of drink-driving tests it had carried out.

Harris’s father, Alwyn, was killed by the Irish Republican Army in 1989 while serving in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the predecessor of the PSNI, which Irish Catholic nationalists accused of bias.

A restructuring of the PSNI, following a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists, has been cited as an example of the kind of root-and-branch reform the Irish police need.

The Irish government statement said Harris would “make a solemn declaration ... to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the state.”

The chief constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, welcomed the appointment and said it would help the two forces to cooperate on challenges caused by Brexit.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents police officers in the region, described the appointment as “ground-breaking and historic.”

Reporting by Conor Humphries, additional reporting by Amanda Ferguson, editing by Larry King

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