Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: 'Foolish' McDonald comments have compromised appointment of new Chief Constable

Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)
Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that the appointment of a new PSNI Chief Constable has been jeopardised after Mary Lou McDonald said nobody within the organisation was suitable for the role.

Mrs Foster said that the "process has now been compromised" following the Sinn Fein President's comments.

Current Chief Constable George Hamilton is set to retire in June after five years in the role.

Sinn Fein members of the Policing Board are set to play a role in appointing his succesor.

However, former First Minister Mrs Foster told the BBC that the recruitment process had been jeopardised by Mrs McDonald's statement.

"I thought they were very foolish, first of all because essentially what has happened is that the process has now been compromised," the DUP leader said.

"The leader of one of the political parties involved in the panel has made her feelings quite clear and that of course interferes with due process and the panel has now been compromised.

"We have indicated to the Policing Board that we want legal opinion taken on this matter."

Respond to Mrs Foster's comments Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd accused her of "staggering hypocrisy".

“For Arlene Foster to accuse anyone of undermining due process is quite incredible. This is the same woman who the High Court found had acted unlawfully during her time as First Minister by blocking the Lord Chief Justice’s request for legacy inquest funding," the Upper Bann MLA said.

“If that had happened anywhere else in the world, there would have been an outcry. The courts found that the joint first minister of the government used her position to prevent grieving families from accessing their legal right to an inquest. 

“That is absolutely scandalous yet Arlene Foster has never apologised for these actions. Neither has she taken any steps to rectify them so for her to now demand a retraction from Mary-Lou McDonald is staggering hypocrisy.

“Sinn Fein will take no lectures from Arlene Foster, given her track record or actively preventing families from accessing truth and justice."

On Monday Mrs McDonald said that she couldn't identify a suitable candidate from within the PSNI after meeting with police to discuss legacy failings.

She was widely criticised for her comments, with the Equality Commission and the Police Federation of Northern Ireland expressing concern.

However, despite attempts from Sinn Fein policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly to clarify her comments, Mrs McDonald has refused to apologise.

"There's nothing to apologise for, there's no retraction to be made," the Sinn Fein leader said.

Mrs McDonald said that the furore around her comments was nothing more than "political huffing and puffing".

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