Chief Constable admits 'dilemma' over attendance at McGuinness funeral

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton admits he faced a personal 'dilemma' over attendance at the funeral of former Deputy First Minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

Chief Constable George Hamilton has admitted he faced a personal "dilemma" over whether or not to attend the funeral of former IRA leader Martin McGuinness.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic newspaper, Northern Ireland's most senior officer said in the end he felt it was "appropriate" to attend.

Mr Hamilton shared a platform with the Derry republican at last year's Feíle an Phobail, a move criticised by some unionists.

Bernie McGuinness (right), wife of Martin, carries his coffin home to the sound of applause

"I did realise that my attendance would be read in different ways by people across the community", said Mr Hamilton.

"I suppose Martin represented the sort of conflicted history that we have had, his involvement with the IRA and the pain and suffering that organisation caused to communities, and then in the last half of his life the massive contribution that he made to the building and maintaining the peace.

"So I suppose like many people my emotions regarding him and the attendance at his funeral was a little bit of a dilemma.

"My values and emotions were being pulled in opposite directions and I just had a fundamental decision to make about whether or not I believed it was the right thing to do to go", he said.

 Arlene Foster arriving at Martin McGuinness' funeral. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

Mr Hamilton also said it may take a generation to change the attitude of Catholic nationalists and republicans to pursue a career in the PSNI, admitting changing attitudes had been a slow process, however, added that he did not support a return to 50:50 recruitment.

"I want the organisation to be the best that it can be and it can only be the best if it is truly representative.

"Some of the young Catholic people I speak to within the PSNI are a complete inspiration to us.

"There hasn't been the strength of advocacy for a career in policing that I would have hoped for this far into the new police organisation.

"I do not question the bona fides of Sinn Féin as the largest nationalist/republican party in terms of their commitment to the peace process and part of that being support for policing.

"It is almost support for policing, rather than the very specific support for a career in policing for Catholic and nationalist young people. They need to get themselves to that point", Mr Hamilton added.

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