19/02/2019

SF President Under Fire For 'Offensive' PSNI Chief Constable Remarks

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has came under severe criticism after she remarked that the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, who will leave his position at the end of his tenure in June, could not be replaced from within the ranks of the force.

Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Mark Lindsay, demanded an apology for the "wholly inappropriate and offensive" comments.

The Sinn Fein leader made the remarks after meeting senior police officials to discuss the controversy over Police Ombudsman legacy files.

The PSNI has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after it emerged that details relating to a loyalist killing on the Ormeau Road in 1992 had been withheld by the force.

"We made it clear to the PSNI that they have zero credibility when it comes to legacy cases," the Dublin Deputy added.

In response, Mr Lindsay accused Ms McDonald of attempting to interfere in an open and transparent selection process.

"Sinn Fein's representatives on the Northern Ireland Policing Board will have a role to play in deciding on Mr Hamilton's successor, and to adopt this public position now is wholly inappropriate, offensive and ill-judged," he explained.

"Her comments will call into question the objectivity and credibility of Sinn Fein representatives who will be involved in that selection process. Her comments have placed her party's representatives on the Policing Board in a difficult position and in the interests of fairness to senior PSNI officers who might put their names forward for the post, I call on the Sinn Fein President to reflect on her grave miscalculation and apologise.

"Senior officers in the PSNI do not deserve to be treated as some second-class candidates in this competition. They are people of integrity who work for the entire community and should not be disadvantaged in this manner.

"For Sinn Fein to attempt to interfere in a properly run selection process does nothing to enhance the party's stated position on fairness and equality."

Meanwhile, Alliance Policing Board member John Blair has questioned whether Sinn Fein can remain on the Chief Constable interview panel, after "undermining" the recruitment process.
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"This was a careless and irresponsible thing to say," the south Antrim MLA commented.

"Undoubtedly the PSNI have questions to answer over recent serious revelations around the failure to pass information on killings to the Police Ombudsman and I have requested a special meeting of the Policing Board to discuss this matter directly with the Chief Constable. In addition, we recognise and acknowledge the challenge of maintaining and securing cross-community support and engagement for policing.

"It would be the ideal scenario to have as broad a representation as possible on the selection panel which interviews candidates and decides upon George Hamilton's replacement. However, this intervention from Mary-Lou McDonald now begs the question as to whether any Sinn Féin representative can sit on that panel."

Adding to the outrage, the UUP's representative for the board, Alan Chambers, has observed that Sinn Fein appear to be withdrawing their support for policing in the region, and warned Ms McDonald to take caution with such statements.

"In saying that the new Chief Constable of the PSNI should come from outside the force, she is not only displaying a lack of faith in the officers there already, she is opening up the possibility of legal action and employment tribunals from unsuccessful candidates, who could point to bias on the part of Sinn Fein members of the policing board.

"There will be genuine concerns that this is Sinn Fein's way of signalling that it is preparing to withdraw support for policing in Northern Ireland."

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey, who represents the Democratic Unionists on the Policing Board, has written to the Chief Executive of the authority to seek legal advice about the Sinn Fein leader's recruitment stance.

Branding the comments "foolish and outrageous", he said: "There are many capable officers in the PSNI and to make such a blanket statement is an outrageous generalisation.

"Policing Board members will be responsible for interviewing and assessing any future Chief Constable. How can any SF member sit on that panel and candidates from the PSNI expect to get a fair hearing? Anyone sitting on that panel must be fair and open-minded rather than having a pre-determined outcome."



(JG/MH)

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