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DUP calls on nationalist politicians to give PSNI and new Chief Constable 'unambiguous' support

New Chief Constable Simon Byrne on his first day in office yesterday
New Chief Constable Simon Byrne on his first day in office yesterday
New Chief Constable Simon Byrne during the annual Somme Commemoration parade last night
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP has challenged nationalist politicians to "unambiguously voice their support" for the PSNI and new Chief Constable Simon Byrne.

The appeal was made as Mr Byrne was sworn in as the force's fifth Chief Constable yesterday.

DUP Policing Board member Mervyn Storey said: "There are huge difficulties facing the PSNI, and nationalist party leaders have a responsibility to step up to the mark.

"They must unambiguously voice their support for the force and Simon Byrne. Nobody is asking them to give the PSNI a blank cheque.

"We all must continue to hold the police to account. But it needs to be made crystal clear that the PSNI is the only proper law enforcement agency in Northern Ireland and has the absolute backing of all political parties here."

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Linda Dillon said her party looked forward to working with Mr Byrne.

"His comments that he wants to serve the public and his commitment to human rights are welcome, but it is action that is required to rebuild and redevelop public confidence in policing," she said.

"He is taking up office at a time when public confidence in the PSNI's ability to police with the community in an open, effective and balanced way has been severely damaged by a number of recent cases.

"Sinn Fein has consistently called for the responsibility of dealing with legacy to be removed from the PSNI and handed over to the new proposed independent legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House, a position supported by the previous Chief Constable."

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said Mr Byrne's in-tray was full of pressing issues and there would be no time for a honeymoon period as policing faced challenges on several fronts.

Pledging to work constructively with him, she said: "He has been appointed in the mouth of the marching season and while policing in the North faces significant challenges.

"Not least of all in relation to legacy investigations, failures of disclosure, recruitment and a fundamental fall in confidence following the outrageous pursuit of two journalists for shining a light on Loughinisland."

Alliance Policing Board member John Blair said the new Chief Constable would face many tests in the job. "However, judging by his dedication to delivering policing for all, I am confident he can meet them - from tackling the dissident threat to increasing confidence across the community in policing," he said.

"I look forward to working closely with him on the Policing Board and helping him do his part in delivering a shared society for everyone in Northern Ireland."

Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Alan Chambers said he was very impressed with Mr Byrne's first day in the job and his media comments. "It is obvious that he has done his homework and this has helped him to hit the ground running," Mr Chambers said.

"When asked about the issue of flags he talked about the need to deploy a common sense approach to the issue.

"He is all too aware of the challenges ahead but will bring all his experience of working with shrinking budgets to deliver the best possible policing service for Northern Ireland people."

The UUP MLA also welcomed Mr Byrne's commitment to living in Northern Ireland in response to claims that he intended to commute between Belfast and his home in England.

DUP Policing Board member Gary Middleton said: "The incoming Chief Constable has a great deal of existing PSNI expertise to lean upon and we would encourage him to avail of those skill-sets."

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