Northern Ireland news

Chief Constable accuses Sinn Féin of 'poor leadership'

Psni Chief Constable George Hamilton speaking after a private meeting with the Policing Board Picture Mal McCann.

A special meeting of the Policing Board, called to discuss a failure by the PSNI to disclose sensitive information to the Police Ombudsman, resulted in the outgoing Chief Constable George Hamilton, accusing the president of Sinn Féin of "poor leadership".

Policing Board members held a closed meeting to consider a report from the Chief Constable regarding PSNI failings to disclose sensitive material to the Police Ombudsman's office linked to a loyalist attack on Sean Graham's bookmakers in 1992.

Speaking after the meeting Policing Board chair Anne Connolly said the issues arising from legacy, "continue to have a seriously detrimental impact on policing and public confidence but most importantly on the victims and families of all those who have been affected by our troubles and are seeking information or justice".

"The Chief Constable was asked to outline the immediate steps and actions that can be taken to address this situation and restore confidence in the PSNI approach".

The Chief Constable, who is due to retire in June, repeated calls for the implementation of legacy mechanisms which would remove responsibility for investigating the past from the PSNI.

He also criticised Mary Lou McDonald over her comments regarding his potential replacement.

Mrs McDonald said she would not have confidence in any current member PSNI's senior command team replacing Mr Hamilton adding that the party would prefer an outside candidate.

Responding to the comments Mr Hamilton said; "Whenever someone in leadership stands up and talks about the police being undemocratic, being cynical and all of the other very negative terms, how could we not be surprised if there is a problem with confidence in policing

"I think Mary Lou McDonald was wrong, I think it was inaccurate and an act of poor leadership and has a detrimental impact on policing and the peace that we are all trying to build".

"I think the comments were the antitheses of all Sinn Féin say they stand for.

"They say they stand for equality, for fairness, for integrity and I can't think of anything further away from those qualities in what the party president said."

Sinn Féin Policing Board member Gerry Kelly claimed Mr Hamilton's remarks on his party leader were "political".

"He has accused Mary Lou of all sorts of things, and so have yous, and so have other people. I have already spoken about that."

Adding that the chief constable, "was more than political when he was answering those questions".

DUP board member Mervyn Storey said the comments were "regrettably".

"You can see there is no intent on the leadership of Sinn Féin and Mary Lou as the president of that party to apologise, in fact she has described reaction to her comments as huffing and puffing. Well, this is a very serious issue," he said.

SDLP board member Dolores Kelly said: "We are in this place seeking legal advice because of what Mary Lou McDonald has said. This is a hole that Sinn Féin has dug for the Policing Board and, more particularly, for themselves.

"They have done damage to the hard-won equality legislation and principles of fair employment that the SDLP, and many others, fought for over many years, coming from the civil rights movement".

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