Northern Ireland news

Mary Lou McDonald remains defiant despite questions over Sinn Féin's 'ability to act impartially' in PSNI appointment

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald yesterday declined to apologise. Picture by Hugh Russell

SINN Féin's Mary Lou McDonald remained defiant last night despite questions over her party's "ability to act impartially" after controversial remarks she made about a potential new PSNI chief constable.

The party president said "there's nothing to apologise for" as she rejected criticism of her comments about a successor to George Hamilton.

It came hours after she said she believed no one within the PSNI was capable of taking on the top job.

Her remarks sparked an angry reaction from the Police Federation, which demanded an apology, while the Equality Commission voiced concern.

Political rivals have also claimed Ms McDonald has compromised the recruitment process of the NI Policing Board - the PSNI's oversight body - of appointing a new chief constable.

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A Sinn Féin appointee is expected to be on the board panel that makes the decision.

But Ms McDonald's remarks have raised questions about whether any of the three Sinn Féin board members will be able to sit on the interview panel.

The DUP's Mervyn Storey said he has written to the Policing Board seeking legal advice.

"How can any Sinn Féin member sit on that panel and candidates from the PSNI expect to get a fair hearing," he asked.

Ulster Unionist Alan Chambers said: "Unless Sinn Fein's representatives on the Policing Board publicly disassociate themselves from their party leader's comments, doubts will inevitably arise as to their ability to act impartially in terms of senior staff appointments, and that is in nobody's interests."

Sinn Féin Policing Board member Gerry Kelly yesterday attempted to defend his party leader, stating she "doesn't know any of the people in the top team" of the PSNI, other than one senior officer.

"Anybody who applies for this job, or other jobs, will be looked upon on their merit, with absolute objectivity on whether they are capable of doing the job or not," he said.

Ms McDonald's comments came after she met bereaved families caught up in a controversy involving the PSNI's failure to disclose documents about historic killings to Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman.

Last night, it emerged that the Criminal Justice Inspectorate is to review the PSNI's disclosure methods following the Police Ombudsman historic cases controversy.

Chief inspector of criminal justice Brendan McGuigan pledged to prioritise the work and will begin drawing up terms of reference immediately.

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