Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams should take concerns to police watchdog, says PSNI chief

Northern Ireland's police chief has challenged Gerry Adams to go to the force's official watchdog with any concerns he has over political policing.

The Sinn Fein leader claimed there are "elements" within the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) who are working against his party.

Mr Adams, Sinn Fein's northern chairman Bobby Storey and five others arrested in connection with the IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville will not be prosecuted over the killing, it was announced on Tuesday.

Mr Adams said the timing of his arrest last year - weeks before European elections - exposed anti-Sinn Fein motives within the force.

But Chief Constable George Hamilton defended his rank and file and insisted he stood over the integrity of their investigations.

"I've said all along we are going to do this with a straight bat, we are going to go where the evidence takes us without fear or favour," he said.

"We are confident when we do that, we are going to conduct these investigations with integrity, free from political consideration or consequence.

"We will keep one eye to that, but we are not actually going to be fettered by political consequences.

"So if Mr Adams has a concern about the decision making or the integrity of investigations by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, I would encourage him to take those to the Police Ombudsman.

"That's the right place, that's the accountability mechanism and we welcome that."

At the time, Mr Adams said he made a formal complaint about specific aspects of his four-day detention last year at Antrim Police station, after which he was released without charge.

But his remarks after Tuesday's decision by the Public Prosecution Service echo allegations at the time of his arrest by Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness about a "dark side" of policing in the region.

Mr Hamilton also stood over the high-profile arrest earlier this month of Mr Storey by detectives investigating the killing of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan.

The police chief's publicly-voiced assessment that the murder was carried out by members of the IRA without sanction by any leadership plunged Northern Ireland's political institutions into fresh crisis.

It is alleged the killing was carried out in retaliation for the murder of another former IRA prisoner, Gerard "Jock" Davison, at his home in the Markets area of Belfast in May.

A solicitor for Mr Storey, who was freed unconditionally without charge, said no direct evidence was put to him during his detention and indicated his intention to sue for unlawful arrest.

Mr Hamilton again said he was "confident in our decision making around all of this".

"There is no investigative or operational reason for me to be making any more announcements about the McGuigan or Davison murders at this stage," he said.

"Let's see where the evidence takes us, that's what we've been doing and what we will continue to do.

"Mr Storey like any other citizen is entitled to go to the Police Ombudsman. I understand he said he intends to do that, I welcome that accountability.

"I am confident in our decision making all around this investigation so far."

Mr Hamilton was speaking at the annual cross-border organised crime conference, being held in Sligo, which brings together senior Garda and PSNI officers.

Both the chief constable and Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan said they have a shared view on the paramilitary and organised crime threat on both sides of the border.

They refused to be drawn any further on whether the IRA still exists as structure, pointing to imminent assessments ordered by both Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Dublin's Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Mr Hamilton said the Northern Ireland report would be ready in "weeks rather than months".


From Belfast Telegraph