Belfast Telegraph

Outgoing PSNI chief in stinging attack on Northern Ireland political class

Hamilton says nationalism lacking leadership to encourage recruitment

Outgoing PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton. Pic Freddie Parkinson Presseye
Outgoing PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton. Pic Freddie Parkinson Presseye
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Outgoing PSNI chief constable George Hamilton levelled a stinging attack on Northern Ireland’s political class accusing them of not being genuine in their actions.

He also said there was a “big void” in leadership from the nationalist political leaders in encouraging Catholics to join the ranks of the PSNI.

Mr Hamilton said he was often given sympathy and understanding in private from politicians for police actions while in public they got criticism.

"I think leaders, including political leaders should lead," he told the BBC's The View programme.

"And if they really believe something they should be authentic and they should say it."

Mr Hamilton declined an opportunity to extend his contract with the PSNI to take retirement after five years in the top post. He leaves at the end of June after almost 34 years in policing.

He said Sinn Fein - and other parties - would offer tea and sympathy in private while attacking him in public.

He gave examples of having to deal with parades, the flying of flags and election posters on bonfires.

"My commentary was not geared to one side or the other," he said.

"Politicians can't agree to get on and govern and some of what we need fixed - for example legacy - could be sorted if we had an executive in place if we had politicians working toward consensus politics. They are trying their best and I wish them well.

"But in two-and-a-half years there has been little or no progress on that stuff and in the mean time policing has to take unpopular decisions."

He explained that in private politicians would agree, empathise and understand the predicament the police were in and why they would act in the way they do.

"And then when it manifests itself publicly, they criticise us and that doesn't feel to me particularly genuine," he said.

He said the adverse commentary led to a "deficit in confidence" in policing in Northern Ireland.

"We explain the dilemmas, the ambiguity in law, the lack of a flags protocol the fact legacy needs to be taken away from us.

"There is a sensible agreement that we have a difficult job to do and actually we don't have much choice but to do what we are doing.

"And we get that privately and then publicly we get adverse commentary, criticism and talks about our actions."

Mr Hamilton said he believed he was leaving the PSNI in a better position that when he took over at the helm.

"I think it is a positive healthy time to be handing over leadership of this great organisation to some one else who will improve it further."

Turning to recruitment he again turned on politicians. He said 50/50 recruitment was the right thing to do to transform an "unrepresentative" RUC into a more inclusive PSNI but there was concern unless more was done the number of Catholics in the ranks would decline.

"We need civic leadership especially within the Catholic, nationalist community. Political leadership in particular to get in behind advocating for a career in the PSNI.

"That is where the big void is.

"We need people to be encouraged to take on the honourable profession of policing and that needs to come from leadership within the catholic nationalist community."

The chief constable along with his counterpart from the Durham police force were grilled on the investigation on the theft of documents from the Police Ombudsman and the arrest of two investigative journalists in that investigation.

Mr Hamilton said he would not be apologising for the arrests - at this stage.

He said he did not apologise "to get off the hook" or make the "noise go away" but did so when it was correct to do so.

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