Northern Ireland news

Simon Byrne appointed next PSNI chief constable

Simon Byrne has been appointed the next chief constable of the PSNI. Picture by Cheshire Constabulary/PA Wire
Allison Morris and Suzanne McGonagle

SIMON Byrne was last night appointed the next chief constable of the PSNI.

The Northern Ireland Policing Board said it had unanimously agreed to ratify the recommendation of the Appointment Panel for Mr Byrne to replace George Hamilton.

He led Cheshire Police until 2017 and has more than three decades of policing experience.

Interviews were held over the last two days with Mr Byrne (56) among four men vying for the £207,000-a-year job.

Among them was acting Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin, current Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton and Jon Boucher, the head of Bedfordshire Police who is overseeing the Operation Kenova investigation into the IRA agent Stakeknife.

NI's Policing Board chair Anne Connolly said: "Mr Byrne brings a wealth of strategic and operational policing experience to the role, he has 36 years of policing experience, 21 years as a chief officer and almost eight as a chief constable serving the Metropolitan Police, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire.

"We are looking forward to working with him in further developing the PSNI as a highly professional and community focused organisation."

Mr Byrne will take up his position next month following Mr Hamilton's retirement after five years in the top post.

In a message to his successor, Mr Hamilton said: "It is a huge honour to lead the officers and staff of this great organisation. I wish Simon every success in his new role".

Mr Byrne, who last year was cleared of misconduct after allegations of bullying, was chosen by a panel of seven Policing Board members, but only four of the five main parties were represented.

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly withdrew for personal reasons.

The appointment was approved by Secretary of State Karen Bradley in the absence of a Justice Minister.

Independent recruitment specialists were hired by the Policing Board to oversee the appointment after controversial comments by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said she couldn't think of any current senior PSNI officers she would have confidence in for the post.

Mr Byrne's appointment was welcomed by Mark Lindsay of the NI Police Federation, who said he would "have to be across the range of issues that will fill his in-tray from day one".

"He has considerable operational experience and I wish him well in this new and very demanding role."

The DUP's Mervyn Storey said his party "look forward to working with the new chief constable as he takes forward his vision for policing in Northern Ireland".

Sinn Féin's Michelle O’Neill said her party "urges the incoming chief constable to commit to policing with the community as the core principle and basis for progressing modern policing".

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