Members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) have voted “no confidence” in Garda Commissioner Drew Harris almost unanimously. 98.7% voted in favour, with just 1.3% opposed.
The vote was unprecedented, being the first of its kind in the 100 years of An Garda Síochana’s existence. The main reason for it being called was an ongoing dispute over Garda rosters, which Harris has sought to return to pre-Covid arrangements. The GRA says this will have a variety of negative effects, such as seeing 20% less officers working at any given moment, and impacting officers’ work-life balance.
Around 10,800 ballot papers were sent to rank-and-file Garda members of the GRA, with the question “Do you have confidence in the Garda Commissioner? Yes or No.” The exercise garnered a reported response rate of over 80%.
However, long before the final results of the vote were finalised, back in early August, the Commissioner said he was “not leaving” regardless of the outcome.
“In the first place, I have a job to do,” he said, speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show.
“I have a very important job to do, and I have a lot of work left to do in my tenure, which stretches out to 2025.
“So, whatever the vote is, I’m not leaving. That was my initial reaction and indeed on reflection that still is my determination – to stay on and finish the job that I was employed to do.”
According to the Irish Times, the Commissioner was “frustrated” by the GRA’s decision to hold the vote in the first place. He previously described the situation has “extraordinary” and “very unnecessary,” saying it would not “resolve” any of the issues between Garda top brass and officers.
Moreover, as of last month Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is on record as having said that Drew Harris will not be removed as Commissioner by the government regardless of the vote’s result.
“That won’t happen,” Varadkar said.
“The government has confidence in Commissioner Harris. It’s not the case that the teachers in the staff room decide who the principal is. It’s not the case that the players decide who the coach is.
“The Garda Commissioner was appointed by the Government after a fair and free process that people can apply for, and we stand over that appointment and we have confidence in him.”
Similarly, Justice Minister Helen McEntee has previously backed Harris, saying that his job is secure regardless of what the GRA vote’s outcome.
The Garda Commissioner has found himself at odds with rank-and-file members repeatedly in recent months, and was jeered and heckled on stage at a GRA conference at the end of April this year when discussing the same roster issue.
Similarly, Commissioner Harris previously told Gript that if Garda officers use the wrong gender pronouns, it could “escalate” to disciplinary action under a proposed policy.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris tells Gript that if Garda officers use the wrong gender pronouns, it could "escalate" to disciplinary action. pic.twitter.com/EXElEEISx1
— gript (@griptmedia) March 28, 2023
This plan was withdrawn after significant backlash from groups like the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.
— gript (@griptmedia) April 4, 2023
Last month Tipperary Independent TD Mattie McGrath called on Harris to resign, claiming that he has refused to listen to members of his own force or politicians.
“He’s lost the dressing room as far as I’m concerned, with respect from the Gardaí and support and confidence in him,” the TD said.