Northern Ireland news

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: Chief constable has lost the confidence of the unionist community

 Sir Jeffrey was speaking during a visit to Portadown

Northern Ireland’s chief constable Simon Byrne has lost the confidence of the unionist community, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

Sir Jeffrey was speaking during a visit to Portadown the day after a suite of proposals to transform policing in south Armagh were unveiled.

He stopped short of calling for Mr Byrne to resign but said he would be making his views clear to the chief constable when the pair meet on Thursday.

“We are very concerned by the proposals in that report, I will be meeting the chief constable tomorrow, we have some very pressing questions to ask the chief constable about how he intends to proceed on this report,” he said.

“We are very clear there is not unionist support or consent for many aspects of what is proposed in this report.

“I believe the chief constable has lost the confidence of unionists.

“I will be making to clear to him tomorrow that he should not press on regardless and implement this report in circumstances where I don’t believe he has the confidence of unionists, in particular in taking forward key element of these proposals.”

The DUP's Gordon Lyons said Simon Byrne was "tone deaf" to unionist concerns.

Mr Lyons told Good Morning Ulster that "people are sickened at the thought of memorials to RUC officers being moved".

"The chief constable, after the Bobby Storey funeral, had said he had recognised there was work to be done within the unionist community," he said.

"And since he has done nothing, he has only compounded the lack of confidence that the people feel.

"He seems to be completely tone deaf to the concerns of the unionist community at best, and at worst he understands their concerns and has decided to do nothing about it."

The East Antrim MLA said it was an "incredibly ill-judged report".

The DUP is “demanding answers” over plans to transform policing in south Armagh – which have been welcomed by nationalists and republicans.

The wide-ranging blueprint recommends joint cross-border policing and the closure of the highly fortified Crossmaglen PSNI station.

It also suggests use of Irish language messaging on station signage and says assault rifles should no longer be carried as routine by officers on patrol duties.

An irate Sir Jeffrey last night said the end goal of the report appeared to be the creation of all-Ireland policing structures. This, he warned, would be politically unacceptable.

Ian Knox cartoon 1/9/21 

“This is the most politically naive document a chief constable has launched in my lifetime,” he said.

“At best it represents a shocking misapprehension of political sensitivities in Northern Ireland and a crass trespassing on to matters of the highest constitutional significance. I will be meeting the chief constable on Thursday and we will be demanding answers.”

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