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Sinn Fein’s ‘grip on PSNI leadership must be broken’ – Donaldson

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has told his party members that Sinn Fein’s word ‘should carry no more weight’ with the chief constable than others.

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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Sinn Fein’s “grip on PSNI leadership must be broken”, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

Following a number of controversies involving the leadership of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Sir Jeffrey insisted that Sinn Fein’s word “should carry no more weight” with a chief constable than that of others.

“There can be no more cases where its ‘one rule for Sinn Fein and another rule for the rest of us’,” he added, in his weekly message to party members, seen by the PA news agency.

Former chief constable Simon Byrne resigned earlier this month following a string of controversies, including the fallout from a PSNI data breach in which the names and details of all officers and staff members were mistakenly released online.

PSNI data breach
Former Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Simon Byrne (Liam McBurney/PA)

In addition, a High Court ruling said that two junior officers were unlawfully disciplined for an arrest made at a Troubles commemoration event in 2021.

The judge said they had been disciplined to allay a threat that Sinn Fein could withdraw its support for policing.

Sinn Fein has insisted there was no such threat.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton is assuming the responsibilities of the chief until the new leader of the PSNI is found, with the recruitment exercise due to complete in November.

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has said she did not threaten to pull her party from the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

In his latest message to party members, Sir Jeffrey said the headlines about policing in recent weeks have been “the culmination of years where leadership in policing has been undermined”.

He said many people are “still furious” about the large crowds which turned out, including Ms O’Neill, and Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald at the height of coronavirus lock down restrictions for the funeral of senior republican Bobby Storey in June 2020.

He also claimed that the PSNI “failed to hold people in Sinn Fein accountable” for the scenes.

Bobby Storey funeral
(left to right) Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill arrive at St Agnes’ Church in west Belfast for the funeral of senior Irish Republican and former leading IRA figure Bobby Storey (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sir Jeffrey wrote: “Policing is about enforcing the law by pursuing those who engage in criminality and break the law.

“We ought all to be equal under the law.

“That is why the perception of two-tier policing is so corrosive to the fabric of democracy.

“If the rule of law is not being enforced without fear or favour, then a basic building block of our democratic society is giving way and eventually the whole structure will fall.

“Never was this so visible as the hands-off approach to the IRA funeral of Bobby Storey.

“As I travel around Northern Ireland, I still meet people who tell me how they buried their father or mother without their own children present so they could adhere to the Covid health rules.

“To this day, they are furious that Sinn Fein organised a funeral for the IRA’s Bobby Storey, brought thousands of people onto the streets for a political rally in a graveyard and the police were complicit in the organising of the event rather than in upholding the health rules.

“During that same Covid period, other organisations brought people on to the streets, yet the PSNI policed those events in a different manner than the approach they took to Bobby Storey’s funeral.”

Sir Jeffrey added: “Sinn Fein’s word should carry no more weight with the next chief constable than that of any other elected representative.

“There can be no more cases where it’s ‘one rule for Sinn Fein and another rule for the rest of us.”

The DUP leader also urged that the next chief constable and senior command team must be policing focused, not politics focused, and opposed the reintroduction of 50/50 recruitment.

“Some within nationalism are campaigning night and day to have 50:50 recruitment restored.

“They want 50% of recruits to be Roman Catholic in each recruitment round,” he said.

“We will oppose such a step. It would be a retrograde step.

“The only consideration in recruitment should be one’s ability to be a good police officer, not their religious background.”

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