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Orde: A talented walker of the political tightrope

Published 17/04/2009

And so the Orde era is over. But Sir Hugh leaves Northern Ireland at a time when policing and politics have never been so inextricably linked, with speculation mounting that the transfer of policing and justice functions will take place this autumn.

For years Orde demonstrated an, at times, uncanny ability to traipse the tightrope between policing and politics.

The defining image of Orde’s era may well be as he stood between First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness outside Stormont the morning after dissident republicans killed PSNI officer Stephen Carroll.

But Orde’s achievement and perhaps lasting legacy came much earlier, having consolidated the new post-Patten reforms.

After years of uneasy tensions between Chief Constables and the body politic, Orde gradually built up a working relationship across all the parties.

Yet he was never far from political attack. Orde came in for trenchant criticism at this year’s Sinn Fein ard fheis, just a few weeks before the dissident upsurge, but was also regularly criticised by senior unionists.

Sir Hugh, however, played a pivotal part — though always maintaining his professional distance — in the period that led to Sinn Fein’s historic decision to support policing and the rule of law, which in turn persuaded the DUP to enter power-sharing government with republicans.

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