A tricolour was erected by a group of builders on the site of one of Belfast’s main police stations during the Queen’s visit to the city earlier this year, raising serious questions over the PSNI’s security policies.
The workmen were involved in the building of a secure car park at Musgrave Street Police Station when they attached the flag to scaffolding at the building site adjacent to the busy city centre station on June 27, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.
When police spotted the flag, they spoke to the workmen and discovered that 20 of them were not security vetted.
The PSNI said that the site is currently not part of the operational station and therefore security vetting is not required.
“Although the site will be part of the overall police station when completed, whilst work is ongoing at this site there is no access for workmen to Musgrave Police Station therefore security vetting is not required in this instance,” a PSNI spokesman said.
“The site is not part of the current operational station and access is currently managed by the building contractor.”
However Policing Board member Jonathan Craig dismissed the PSNI’s explanation and said it raises “huge questions”.
“This is a very odd situation. These workmen were carrying out work for the PSNI. This is a PSNI site, whether it’s inside the operational station or right next to it. In the past any work done on the PSNI’s behalf would have to be done by security vetted firms. I am very concerned about this and will be asking the Chief Constable to explain what is going on,” the DUP man said.
He added: “The threat level against PSNI officers is severe. When you look at the number of attacks on officers, including the very recent pipe bomb attack on police in Poleglass, the threat against them is very real. I am amazed that the PSNI does not want to ensure that every single person involved in any sort of work for them, whether inside an operational station or at an adjacent building site, has been thoroughly vetted.”
The workmen erected the flag on the second day of the Queen’s visit to Northern Ireland this year, during which she historically shook hands with former IRA leader and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
The flag was removed by the workmen when spoken to by police.
“Not only does the incident raise serious questions about security, it is also pretty embarrassing for the PSNI. Officers worked extremely hard to ensure the visit went off smoothly and an Irish flag was erected right on their doorstep,” Mr Craig added.