NI police chief vows to hear union concerns over report on policing in South Armagh

Updated 7 hours ago

PSNI CONSTABLE President Simon Byrne is committed to listening to unionists’ concerns and “rebuilding trust” following the controversy over the publication of a review of policing in South Armagh.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson had previously warned that if Byrne could not “restore confidence in policing” his position would be unsustainable.

Byrne released the report Tuesday that contained 50 recommendations, including closing the heavily fortified Crossmaglen police station, closer working relationships with An Garda Síochana and exploring moving memorials to fallen officers.

This led to an angry reaction from unionist politicians, some of whom called on the police chief to resign.

The chief of police briefed his oversight body, the Police Board, on the plans on Thursday before meeting with the DUP delegation at PSNI headquarters in Belfast.

In a statement released tonight, Byrne said the meetings were “candid and constructive.”

He added: “Jeffrey Donaldson and several DUP representatives have told me deep concerns about community trust and disappointment arising from a series of recent police cases.

“I accept the importance of ensuring that there is widespread trust in policing throughout our community. I have reaffirmed my commitment to listening to the concerns of the union community and rebuilding trust.

“We will continue to be genuinely involved to ensure local concerns and feedback are absorbed.”

Byrne then made a number of points regarding the police review in South Armagh.

He said, “No memorials will be removed from our buildings or moved within them.

“It was never conceivable that there would be joint patrols by the Northern Ireland Police Service and An Garda Síochana.

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The hot-hunt case will not proceed without the consent of the two governments. Consequently, the Northern Ireland Police Service will not move forward in implementing this recommendation.

“No action will be taken with respect to the use of the Irish language unless it is consistent with the approach taken across the public sector in Northern Ireland more broadly.

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Donaldson had warned the police chief of a “significant loss of confidence” in policing in Northern Ireland after the South Armagh report was published.

He said: “This is the latest in a chain of events and incidents that have occurred which, in our opinion, have seriously undermined confidence, particularly in the union community. This is not a sustainable position.

“We support policing and the rule of law, but we are deeply concerned by the loss of confidence in policing in the communities we represent.

“We have made it clear to the Chief of Police we cannot continue like this. We cannot continue in a situation where every two weeks we are faced with another crisis, another catastrophe that is eroding and undermining the confidence of the people, of ordinary people, of people who respect the law, in the way Northern Ireland is being watched. This is a situation that cannot be to relate to him.

“In our opinion, there is a significant loss of confidence in the work of the police, in the fairness and integrity of policing. This needs to be addressed urgently.”

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“Either he begins the process of regaining the confidence he has completely lost, or he has to go,” added Gregory Campbell, MP for the DUP.

“If the chief of police can’t restore people’s trust not only with respect to this report but with respect to the broader aspects of the police, then I don’t see how the position of chief of police in those circumstances would be sustainable and we made that clear to him,” Donaldson said.

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