Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

10 moments that shaped Chief Constable Matt Baggott's time in Northern Ireland

PSNI Chief Con. Matt Baggott

DECEMBER 2009: The Irish border

1. In his first public interview, Mr Baggott vowed that dissident republican terrorists would not bully him into changing his plans for a peace-time police force in Northern Ireland.

However, he was embroiled in controversy when he said he was open to utilising officers from the Republic to assist with policing operations in Northern Ireland, describing the border as "an artificial thing". "I'm not saying we would have the Garda coming here policing alongside PSNI officers," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"But wouldn't it be great if one day the border became less symbolic, if actually we had Garda and PSNI officers policing both sides of the border under European agreement?

"The border is an artificial thing."

APRIL 2010: Praying for terrorists

2. The devout Christian revealed that he prays for dissident republicans who remain opposed to the peace process. "I ask God to take the scales off their eyes so they become people and their families have a future that is about anything other than violence and rage and bitterness and anger.

"So they free themselves up to play their part in the right way in the future in Northern Ireland, and I think that's a prayer that I share with many other people in Northern Ireland and many people in the South (of Ireland) and many churches here. We should be praying for people who are trapped in the cycle of violence."

APRIL 2010: Patrolling Crossmaglen

3. Mr Baggott became the first serving Chief Constable in Northern Ireland to patrol the streets of Crossmaglen in south Armagh. It followed an upsurge in dissident republican attacks.

Mr Baggott's visit to Crossmaglen was described as a fact-finding mission and, according to him, his way of "saying thank you" to the people of the area. The Police Federation described it as an attempt by Mr Baggott "to assure the general public that the rule of law ran freely throughout Northern Ireland".

It added that the move -- for which 20 extra officers and a police helicopter were drafted in -- was "not a true picture of what is happening on the ground".

APRIL 2011: Murder of PC Ronan Kerr

4. The Chief Constable is visibly distressed as he confirms the death of Ronan Kerr in a dissident republican bomb attack. Mr Baggott said the 25-year-old, was a "modern-day hero".

The Catholic constable died after inadvertently setting off the bomb, which had been hidden underneath his car, as he left his Omagh home for work.

He said: "Ronan was relatively new to the PSNI but had proven himself a good and dedicated officer in the short time he was with us."

JUNE 2012: The Royal visit

5. The Queen's two-day visit to Northern Ireland as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour was one of the most testing security operations of Matt Baggott's tenure.

Thousands lined the streets when she attended the Service of Thanksgiving at St Macartin's Cathedral, in Enniskillen.

Afterwards she met families of the victims of the 1987 Enniskillen Bombing in the Deanery, and visited the South West Acute Hospital.

In Belfast she visited the Lyric Theatre, Titanic Building and Stormont Estate.

One of the most memorable images from the visit was the Queen's handshake with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

FEBRUARY 2013: Death of PC Philippa Reynolds

6. Tears were visible in the eyes of Matt Baggott as he paid a glowing tribute to Constable Philippa Reynolds. The 27-year-old was killed on duty when the car she was in was rammed in Londonderry.

"She was kind, she was caring, she was courageous when necessary. She was compassionate," he said.

"And in her short service, she would have sent ripples through neighbourhoods, through families, through people's lives just because of who she was and the values she lived out, day in, day out."

MAY 2013: The G8 Summit

7. Mr Baggott confirmed an extra 3,600 police officers would be flown into Northern Ireland from Great Britain for the G8 summit the following month. Mr Baggott said Northern Ireland was a "safe place to work and live". He said he would be doing everything possible to ensure "it was the most successful G8 summit in history". It passed off without major incident with Mr Baggott receiving the plaudits.

SEPTEMBER 2013: Historical Enquiries Team

8. The future of Dave Cox, the man who headed up the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), sparked a public fall-out between Mr Baggott and the Policing Board.

In a joint statement, Matt Baggott and Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly said Mr Cox's departure was established during a "constructive" meeting.

There had been calls for him to go after a damning report revealed the HET was investigating killings by soldiers with less rigour than those by paramilitaries.

SEPTEMBER 2013: Frustration with politicians

9. Matt Baggott laid bare for the first time the depth of his frustration over the failure of politicians to support his force. After a tense summer which saw scores of his officers injured, the PSNI chief said the failure of public figures to be unequivocal on the law had dented policing.

"I am frustrated that we are still experiencing a lack of political agreement and that saps confidence in policing," he said.

"I have been frustrated, because I see things that I want to reform, like the way that disadvantaged neighbourhoods are being taken forward in social planning."

DECEMBER 2013: Haass talks fail

10. Bogged down by dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past, Mr Baggott must have been desperate for Northern Ireland’s politicians to strike a deal which would ultimately ease the excess pressure placed on his limited resources.

The Haass talks, aimed at securing long-sought resolution to outstanding peace process issues in Northern Ireland, ended without agreement.

US diplomat Richard Haass, was given until the end of the year to strike a deal on flags, disputed parades and the legacy of the Troubles, but was unable to attain consensus among Stormont's five main parties.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have signalled a willingness to back Dr Haass's proposals.

But, while the DUP and Ulster Unionists pledged to take the document back for consultation with their respective party executives, both expressed major concerns about elements of the proposed framework as it stands.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz