Northern Ireland

Gerry Kelly says PSNI legacy role is 'corroding community confidence'

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly. Picture by Mal McCann
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly. Picture by Mal McCann Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly. Picture by Mal McCann

The role of the PSNI in Troubles' investigations is undermining confidence in policing, according to Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly.

The North Belfast MLA describes the PSNI's legacy role and remit as a "real barrier" to those from the nationalist community wishing to pursue a career in policing.

Writing in The Irish News, Mr Kelly highlights the case of murdered GAA official Sean Brown whose inquest is currently being delayed over the disclosure of police material.

"The failure to disclose information to legacy inquests, and to hold to account former RUC agent handlers involved in collusion is corroding confidence levels across the community," he says. 

He argues that the Good Friday Agreement and Patten Commission "marked a clear departure from the RUC as a sectarian, repressive and security dominated force".

"It also represented a break with the failed approaches of the past," he says. 

"The PSNI is not the one-sided partisan police force that was the RUC. There has been substantial progress."

However, Mr Kelly says there is an under-representation in the PSNI's ranks not only of republican, nationalist and working-class communities but also women, the LGBTQIA+ community, the Black and Minority Ethnic community and those who are disabled.

"A key priority must be to deliver a policing structure and service, across all levels of the police service, including specialist units, that is as diverse as the community it serves," he says. 

"The lack of workforce diversity has been compounded by the withdrawal of the 50:50 recruitment model."

Read more:

Boutcher needs strategic support of Policing Board

Sinn Féin did not threaten to withdraw support for policing – Gerry Kelly

The Sinn Féin policing and justice spokesperson argues that addressing the under-representation of Catholics in front-line, management and specialist teams will "be key to delivering a representative police service".

"PSNI disengagement from legacy and ensuring that the PSNI is representative of the community it serves are immediate and connected challenges for the Policing Board and the new PSNI chief constable," he says. 

"It is therefore essential that such decisions are now taken without further delay."

Mr Kelly insists there will be many "challenges and hard decisions" in the effort to develop sustainable solutions to the problems he outlines but that these can be addressed through "working collaboratively and in partnership".