Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Kelly calls on Chief Constable to withdraw pledge to put children of paramilitaries into state care

Gerry Kelly said he will be raising the issue with Simon Byrne at a meeting of the Policing Board
Gerry Kelly said he will be raising the issue with Simon Byrne at a meeting of the Policing Board

Sinn Fein has called on the PSNI Chief Constable to withdraw remarks he made about putting the children of paramilitaries into state care.

Simon Byrne made the comments at a conference on young people, policing and stop and search powers in Northern Ireland at Queen's University on Wednesday.

The police chief said violent paramilitary members are unfit to have custody of children.

“My message to them is ‘you carry on doing this, we will have your house, if you keep going we will have your car, we will have your kids, we will have your benefits and we will put you in jail’," he said.

“Why would I think you are safe in the presence of young children? So what safeguarding powers have we got to take your kids into care if that is a deterrent?"

Sinn Fein MLA and Policing Board member Gerry Kelly said the comments were "unacceptable" and called on Mr Byrne to withdraw them.

“The safety and welfare of children must always be paramount, they can’t be used as pawns in a wider strategy to ‘deter’ paramilitaries in their anti-community activity," he said.

Simon Byrne
Simon Byrne

“It flies in the face of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and all the evidence and current good practice within the criminal justice system concerning the safeguarding of children.

“His comments are all the more unacceptable since they were made at a conference on 'Young People, Policing and Stop and Search' powers.

“I will be calling on him at today’s Policing Board meeting to withdraw these disgraceful remarks and to confirm there is no such strategy in place to take children from their homes.”

Simon Byrne said the PSNI need to be "more assertive" when dealing with paramilitaries and said it is time for communities to tell them "enough is enough".

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