Northern Ireland news

Policing Board seeks legal advice following Mary Lou McDonald remarks on PSNI chief constable

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald made the comments ahead of PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton stepping down in June 

THE Policing Board last night said it has "sought legal advice" about the recruitment of a new PSNI chief constable.

It comes amid the ongoing controversy surrounding comments by Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, who said there was no credible candidate within the force to replace George Hamilton.

Ms McDonald has refused to apologise for her remarks, despite an angry reaction from the Police Federation and political rivals, who claim she has compromised the forthcoming recruitment process by the Policing Board.

A Sinn Féin appointee is expected to sit on the panel that decides on the candidate to succeed Mr Hamilton, who will retire at the end of June.

'Jeopardised the recruitment process'

But DUP leader Arlene Foster said she believed Ms McDonald's comments had jeopardised the recruitment process.

"The leader of one of the political parties involved in the panel has made her feelings quite clear and that of course interferes with due process and the panel has now been compromised," she told the BBC.

Read More: Allison Morris: We need a chief constable to investigate current crimes, not those of the past

"We have indicated to the Policing Board that we want legal opinion taken on this matter."

The Equality Commission has also voiced concern at Ms McDonald's remarks and said it had written to the Policing Board "to remind it of its responsibilities under equality legislation to recruit in a non-discriminatory way".

Ian Knox cartoon: 20/2/2019 - Investigations into loyalist and police collusion have been plagued by the disappearance of records. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has caused convulsions in the recruitment process for the new chief constable 

Policing Board to decide next move

The Policing Board last night said it was taking legal advice about the implications for its recruitment process.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said: "The board can confirm that it has sought legal advice in relation to the chief constable appointment process".

It is understood that once legal advice is received, the Policing Board will decide its next move.

On previous occasions, there has been a representative from the main political parties - including Sinn Féin - on the selection panel to choose the next chief constable.

Read More: 11 percent of senior PSNI officers are Catholic

Sinn Féin's Policing Board member Gerry Kelly has insisted any member of his party on the selection panel for the job would be objective and fair.

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