Northern Ireland news

Police Federation legacy comments appalling says Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly

Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly, pictured with party vice-president Michelle O'Neill. Picture by Mal McCann.
Michael McHugh, Press Association

Sinn Féin has described as "appalling" the Police Federation for Northern Ireland's (PFNI) stance on legacy issues.

Serving police officers have urged the government to scrap its "one-sided and unfair" legacy proposals for Northern Ireland.

The federation characterised the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) as a parallel police service and said a suggested new offence of "non-criminal police misconduct" could be construed as another word for collusion.

Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said: "For the Police Federation to warn that PSNI officers and former RUC and PSNI officers will not co-operate with legally-constituted bodies dealing with the legacy of the conflict is appalling."

He challenged the federation to clarify whether its members are withholding information about past crimes, following comments by its chairman Mark Lindsay.

Mr Kelly added: "The Police Federation is supposed to be engaged in upholding the rule of law, yet here we have them warning that they will have no part in legal mechanisms which were agreed at Stormont House and which are a central part of proposed new legislation to deal with the legacy of the conflict.

"The Police Federation's stance is in direct contravention to everything that human-rights compliant and accountable policing should stand for."

A government consultation on addressing the legacy of past violence is closing, with bodies suggested including an HIU and an information retrieval organisation.

The federation has reiterated its opposition to equating terrorists with officers and rejected the proposed creation of an Oral History Archive, which it believes could be used as a propaganda tool by people who refused to assist criminal investigations.

The representative organisation for officers said the current legacy set-up was heavily biased and "a travesty for the rule of law".

Mr Lindsay said: "The draft bill is flawed.

"Assessed through tried and trusted justice principles, the PFNI rejects it in its entirety.

"This is lop-sided, one-sided and massively unfair on the wider police family.

"The words 'terrorist' and 'murder' do not appear in the government consultation, and that speaks to a lack of objectivity and imbalance."

During the decades of the Troubles, officers were responsible for 51 deaths, almost all lawful killings, and terrorists 3,251, Mr Lindsay said.

"Officers accounted for one per cent but that hasn't prevented opponents orchestrating a vicious campaign against the reputations of the men and women who thwarted the terrorists and prevented anarchy."

He said the proposals delivered false hope to victims, risked retraumatising many and "weaponised" the past.

"The government has an opportunity to stop this ludicrous process in its tracks before it escalates into an ugly political arm-wrestle," he said.

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