Belfast Telegraph

Police officer who forgot to include Ulster-Scots in multilingual New Year message holds his hands up

Lost in translation and recrimination

By Rebecca Black

A PSNI officer is expecting to be reported to the Police Ombudsman after he forgot to include Ulster-Scots in a multilingual New Year's message to the public.

The unnamed officer sparked some abuse on social media after posting the message on official Facebook and Twitter accounts at around 10.30pm on New Year's Eve.

Writing on the PSNI Newry and Mourne social media feeds, the officer wished residents a happy, healthy and safe New Year from their local police.

The post also included a New Year's message in Irish, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian, as well as a montage of images from Ardmore PSNI station in Newry, which the officer spent his lunch hour compiling to give the message a special local touch.

The greeting received 95 'likes', with many commending the officer for effort.

However, the officer ended up apologising after some voiced anger over use of the Irish language, and the lack of an Ulster-Scots greeting.

One Facebook user posted: "Why can't you just speak in English? once again trying 2 make it a cold house 4 loyalist's (sic)".

Meanwhile, over on Twitter there was also a swell of criticism, including: "PSNI are a one sided force bowing to their Sinn Fein masters" and, "to get respect you must first earn it, the RUC earned it long ago, these cowboys can't compete, useless!"

One follower questioned why Ulster-Scots hadn't been included.

P_U_L_Views wrote: '...hardly any need for the foreign language. What about the Ulster scots tradition? A police service for all?'

Among the critics on Twitter was Manya Dickinson, a victims' campaigner whose father Kenneth Graham was killed by the IRA for supplying building materials to the security forces.

She queried the New Year post, asking: "why the irish?? I dont think u serve in the south???"

The officer said the languages used reflected the languages officers had heard in the area that year, and stressed there had been no political motives.

"There is nothing political about this page or myself. The gesture was to wish all residents of the area a happy New Year in a language they understand and relate to. I apologise if you have been offended," he wrote.

Two hours later another post appeared, issuing an apology.

"Folks I hold my hands up and apologise in relation to my last post. It appears I have offended some folk by posting a New Year wish in various languages.

"I included these languages as there is such a diverse community in Newry & Mourne. I used languages that I personally have come across folk that have spoken to me in those languages.

"I'll be honest, I used Google to translate them! I did not include Ulster Scots as I have neither been spoken to in it nor did Google allow me to translate to it. If I have offended you I apologise.

"To you all, regardless of background, I personally wish you a Happy New Year."

However, the vast majority of comments were supportive, with another Facebook user commenting: "Good heavens. Only in Northern Ireland could someone take offence at being wished a happy new year".

Yesterday morning, the same police officer informed users of the Facebook page they had been asked for their number to be reported to the Police Ombudsman, and also made a reference to other criticism he had received over the incident, commenting: "Folk are after me".

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman was unable to confirm if a complaint had been lodged, as its offices were closed yesterday.

A PSNI spokesman said it would not be issuing any further comment on the matter other than what had been posted on the Facebook page.

The PSNI has encouraged officers to learn Irish, and senior officers including Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie have passed exams in the language.

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