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Police chief admits 'dilemma' over attending Martin McGuinness funeral

By Claire Williamson

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said he was in a "dilemma" over attending Martin McGuinness' funeral.

Speaking to the Irish Catholic newspaper Mr Hamilton said he came to the decision that it was "appropriate" that he attend.

Martin McGuinness died at the age of 66-year-old following a short battle with illnesss.

The Sinn Fein veteran politician's funeral was held in Derry on March 23.

Mr Hamilton said: "I did realise that my attendance would be read in different ways by people across the community.

"I suppose Martin represented the sort of conflicted history that we have had, his involvement with the IRA and the pain and suffering that organisation caused to communities, and then in the last half of his life the massive contribution that he made to the building and maintaining the peace.

"So I suppose like many people my emotions regarding him and the attendance at his funeral was a little bit of a dilemma.

"My values and emotions were being pulled in opposite directions and I just had a fundamental decision to make about whether or not I believed it was the right thing to do to go."

Northern Ireland's most senior police officer said that there is work to be done by both the police and politicians to change the attitude among the Catholic community towards pursuing a pursuing a career in the PSNI.

He said it could take a "generational change" and while he strongly supported 50:50 recruitment in the past he does not support its re-introduction.

The 50/50 recruitment policy operated from 2001 to 2011 and helped to increase the number of Catholic officers from 8% to 31%.

Recent recruitment drives have struggled to attract new Catholic officers, despite advertising campaigns targeted specifically at the nationalist/republican communities.

He said: “We want to be inclusive not just because that is the right thing to do, to be representative. But we will be a better police service if we are representative, if we have an organisational mindset of being truly representative of the communities that we serve. I want the organisation to be the best that it can be and it can only be the best if is truly representative.

“Some of the young Catholic people I speak to within the PSNI are a complete inspiration to us."

He added: "There also hasn’t been the strength of advocacy for a career in policing that I would have hoped for, this far into the new police organisation.

“I have said before publicly I do not question the bona fides of Sinn Fein as the largest nationalist/republican party in terms of their commitment to the peace process, and part of that being support for policing.

“It is almost support for policing, rather than the very specific support for a career in policing, for Catholic and nationalist young people. They need to get themselves to that point”.

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