Northern Ireland

Peadar Heffron says he would not join PSNI if he had the chance again

The former officer was badly injured when dissident republicans blew up his car in 2010.

Peader Heffron sitting in a wheelchair outside Stormont
Peadar Heffron outside Parliament Buildings at Stormont after speaking during a Victims' Day event. PICTURE: Liam McBurney/PA Wire (Liam McBurney/PA)

A former police officer severely injured in a dissident republican bomb attack has said he would not join the PSNI if given the chance again.

Peadar Heffron expressed concern that policing is “broken” in Northern Ireland and said communities on all sides needed to do more to make it work.

He suggested politicians also had to “pull their finger out” as he reflected on the continued reluctance of some young nationalists to join the PSNI amid the security threat posed by dissidents.

Mr Heffron lost a leg when a dissident bomb detonated under his car near Randalstown in 2010 as he travelled to work. He now uses a wheelchair.

Former PSNI GAA team captain Peadar Heffron (right) fighting for control of the ball in a game against St Brigid’s in south Belfast four years before his injuries
Former PSNI GAA team captain Peadar Heffron (right) fighting for control of the ball in a game against St Brigid’s in south Belfast four years before his injuries (Paul Faith/PA)

As captain of the PSNI GAA team, the high-profile Catholic officer was targeted by the violent extremists as part of their efforts to intimidate other nationalists from joining up.

Mr Heffron, who is medically retired from the PSNI, was at Stormont on Monday to address an event commemorating the European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism.

He relayed his story to an audience inside the Senate Chamber of Parliament Buildings.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr Heffron, who now plays wheelchair hurling and basketball, insisted he held no bitterness in relation to what happened to him.

“Me being bitter or being angry or all those sorts of thoughts and emotions, I’m not built that way,” he said.

“That wouldn’t do me any good. And it wouldn’t do my family or my wife or any of my friends any good me getting depressed or being bitter or whatever way you want to describe that.

“The people that did this, they have to live with it.

“I obviously have to live with the consequences, but I just get on with it. I can’t change it.”

Mr Heffron has previously spoken about how he felt he had to leave his local GAA team in Randalstown when he joined the police due to the hostile reaction from some club members.

The former officer said he would like to some day build bridges with his former club, but he made clear he did not have any “ill feelings” towards the GAA, insisting the association was in his blood.

Mr Heffron also said he did not think it was the GAA’s responsibility to help recruit people into the police.

However, he said there was a need for communities to improve outreach with the police so more people would be encouraged to join.

“I would say that some communities on all sides maybe need to look at themselves a bit to try to make policing work here, it’s a bit broken at the minute I think,” Mr Heffron said.

Asked about the ongoing reluctance of some within the nationalist community to become PSNI officers, he said: “I think if I was my 26-year-old self now, knowing what I know now, would I join the police? I wouldn’t. My answer is no, I wouldn’t.

“I think it comes back to communities, it’s not within the police’s grasp to change enough. I think it’s people within the communities have to move a bit if they’re going to have a police force that can work better.”

Asked if there was a role for politicians in addressing the issues he raised, Mr Heffron said: “People up here (Stormont) could maybe pull their finger out.”

The event at Parliament Buildings was organised by victims advocacy group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) in conjunction with TUV leader Jim Allister.