Sir Hugh Orde has vowed to remain at the helm of the PSNI until a suitable replacement is found.
Speaking at a Press conference confirming his departure as Northern Ireland’s most senior policeman, Sir Hugh said he will not step down from his position as Chief Constable until his successor is found.
“The dates of appointment have yet to be agreed but I have no |intention of leaving until there is a clear succession plan in place,” Sir Hugh explained.
His resignation — to take up the post of President of the Association of Chief Police Officers — has sparked much speculation about who will replace him, although it has been confirmed that the new chief will not come from within the PSNI.
Under legislation, a PSNI Chief Constable must have served for at least two years at assistant chief constable (ACC) level in another police force. The only PSNI officer who meets this criteria is ACC Paul Leighton, who is due to retire in the coming months.
Sir Hugh said he felt the time has come to allow a different person to take the challenging role of Chief Constable and went on to pay tribute to the courage of his officers who he said are winning the fight against dissident republicans.
“I said I would stay for five years and I have been here for nearly seven years, it has been a rough and challenging road but that is what you expect,” he said.
“You can’t lead an organisation for that length of time and not have mixed emotions about leaving but I think the time has come for fresh eyes to look at things differently.”
Admitting there is still “unfinished business” and that he will always regret the failure to secure a conviction from the Omagh atrocity, he stressed that his officers have continued to work hard despite very challenging conditions.
He explained: “There is a uniqueness about policing in Northern Ireland. There is no other police service where officers have to check under their cars every day or where five officers have to go out with a helicopter above them just so they can deliver a service.
“However, I didn’t think we would get as far as we have and that is a credit to the front line officers. Look at last weekend, when just 150 people turned out in Derry, if that’s the best they can manage then I think it is clear there is no support for their cause. Republican groups are small and have no support.
“The saddest thing was seeing young kids being dragged out into the street to watch the parades by their parents. It shows there is still some work to be done.”
Referring to the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll, Sir Hugh said it was the saddest event during his time as Chief Constable of the PSNI but also referred to the death of four police officers last year who died in a crash as they drove to assist a colleague.
“It is a very high risk business and I think it is incredible that even today they are still going out to deliver that service and that will not change. I think the future of policing here is very bright.”