New PSNI Chief Constable will be selected on merit, says Gerry Kelly, as Sinn Fein rows back on McDonald's call outsider should get top job
Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly has attempted to clarify party leader Mary Lou McDonald's comments that the next Chief Constable should come from outside the PSNI.
Mrs McDonald said that there was no credible candidate within the PSNI to replace outgoing Chief Constable George Hamilton.
However, policing board member Mr Kelly said that "any Sinn Fein member who will sit on any of the selection panels will act on the basis of objectivity and merit, whether those candidates are from within the PSNI or outside".
He also stated the party president did not know the top brass other than one senior officer.
He said that Mrs McDonald had made a "straightforward" comment in light of the recent criticism of the PSNI.
When asked if she believed a candidate within the PSNI was capable of becoming the next chief constable, the Sinn Fein President replied: "I have to answer honestly that no, I can't identify such a person."
She was speaking after Sinn Fein met with the PSNI on Monday to discuss the police failure to disclose a number of documents to the Ombudsman in relation to the 1992 Sean Graham bookmakers massacre.
It took a lot of work & courage by the SDLP & others to bring about huge change in policing. There are major challenges in policing today but ill-thought out comments from the SF leader do nothing to resolve them. There's a process for filling key positions. It should be followed— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) February 19, 2019
Her comments attracted heavy criticism from across the political spectrum with the Police Federation warning that Mrs McDonald's comments had been a "grave miscalculation".
Outgoing PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton retweeted a statement from the Police Federation criticising Mrs McDonald's comments.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, Mr Kelly defend his party leader and said that she did not know many of the PSNI top brass.
"Mary Lou doesn't know any of the people in the top team, she was only introduced to the temporary deputy chief constable and the other assistant chief constable yesterday," the North Belfast MLA said.
"It was extrapolating something from a comment which was reflecting the meetings we had yesterday (with the PSNI), the damage that this has done to the confidence in policing is massive."
Mr Kelly stressed that every candidate for the role would be judged on their own merits.
"Anybody who applies for this job, or other jobs, will be looked upon on their merit, with absolute objectivity on whether they are capable of doing the job or not.
"This is a public appointments process so there are independent people there who will make sure the process goes through."
"Mary Lou McDonald will not be on the panel and never claimed she would be. I may be or it may be one of the other two members in Sinn Fein (on the policing board) and it will be other people of the board and I expect all of them, including Sinn Fein to act with the utmost integrity.
Pushed on whether he considered there to be candidates inside the PSNI capable of doing the top job, Mr Kelly admitted there were.
"I think there are clearly people capable of doing the Chief Constable's job wherever they come from whether that is within the PSNI or outside," he said.
UUP policing board member Alan Chambers said that Mr Kelly's comments had not "repaired the damage" caused by Mrs McDonald's comments.
The North Down MLA said that "being regarded as capable of applying for a job does not necessarily mean you are capable of being appointed".
"Sinn Fein members on the Policing Board have to put some distance between themselves and their party leader’s comments or they themselves will be wide open to the possibility of legal action and employment tribunals from unsuccessful candidates," he said.
“Unless Sinn Fein’s representatives on the Policing Board publicly disassociate themselves from their Party Leader’s comments, doubts will inevitably arise as to their ability to act impartially in terms of senior staff appointments, and that is in nobody’s interests.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital