Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

The appointment of PSNI chief constable is a matter for the Policing Board alone

Justice Minister David Ford
Justice Minister David Ford

The newest power grab by OFMDFM is only the latest example of what happens when the DUP and Sinn Fein don't get their own way.

OFMdFM tried and failed to take control of planning and it took an SDLP minister to stand up to them and prevent the signing into law of a bill that would usurp the rights of the people to object to planning decisions.

Now OFMdFM want to stage a power grab that will see the role of the Policing Board usurped.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Justice Minister David Ford was wrong when he announced proposals to change the criteria for the appointment of senior PSNI officers.

That power does and should reside solely with the Policing Board who were set up to fulfil such functions. It is unfortunate that the two top posts in the police now have to be filled but that is no excuse to throw procedure aside.

It further compounds the wrong done by the Justice Minister for the First and Deputy First Minister to insist that the power to change the hiring criteria should be discussed by the Executive.

It cannot be disputed that we all deserve the best leadership at the top of the police. But to get the best leadership we must have the best recruitment process and that responsibility does not lie solely with politicians but with the Policing Board.

The SDLP fought long and hard to take narrow party political interests out of policing so communities across the north could have confidence in their police force. That was achieved with the Patten Reforms.

The SDLP will fight again to defend Patten and ensure that the reforms are fully honoured and the Policing Board is given its rightful place. The appointment of PSNI chief constable is a matter for the Policing Board alone.