Sunday 24 March 2019

Mary Lou McDonald refuses to apologise for suggesting 'there is nobody worthy' of being PSNI chief

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

SINN Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has refused to apologise for suggesting there is nobody in the PSNI worthy of being appointed chief constable.

Instead she doubled down on her comments that that force has “zero credibility” when it comes to investigating legacy cases in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House today, Ms McDonald did express confidence Garda Commissioner Drew Harris who was a Deputy Chief Constable in the PSNI before moving south last year.

“He has a job to do and I want him to succeed. I want to do things and achieve things that build broad public confidence but also builds confidence of victims and survivors of our legacy cases which of course live very much with people now,” Ms McDonald said.

Asked whether her condemnation of the PSNI was reasonable given that Sinn Féin representatives will have a role in selecting the next police boss, she said her position stood. Outgoing Chief Constable George Hamilton is due to retire in June.

Ms McDonald cited a meeting with the Police Ombudsman where she heard details of information allegedly withheld by the PSNI in relation to the Graham’s bookies attack. The gun assault carried out by the UFF in 1992 left five people dead.

The Ombudsman has opened new inquiry lines after finding out about more material linked to the attack.

“I cannot describe to you the level of distress of these families because they were expecting a report from the Ombudsman and he discovered by accident that critical information was withheld from him.

“People are looking on aghast with the latest episode of this,” Ms McDonald said.

“Any comments that I have made are reflective of exasperation and real upset from real people who live up the road. Any comments I will ever make will be in the interests of delivering credible policing services that people can support.”

Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O'Brien branded Ms McDonald's are "wholly irresponsible" and "very dangerous" and accused her of "undermining" the PSNI.

He argued that she should retract her comments and "further say that in no way, shape of form does it affect the [PSNI chief constable recruitment] process".

Mr O'Brien accused Ms McDonald of "creating another crisis" to add to the lack of an Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, said Ms McDonald's comments about Mr Hamilton's successor were "wholly inappropriate and offensive".

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