Belfast Telegraph

Police 'can't fill political void'

Police cannot fill the void left by political disagreement, the Justice Minister has said.

David Ford told rank and file officers at the annual Police Federation conference in Belfast that the PSNI could not be expected to continually bear the brunt of community dissatisfaction when it boils over into violence.

He said: "I welcome the all-party talks, under an independent chair to look at flags, parades and the past. I have advocated the need to address these issues for some considerable time and I intend for my part to ensure that the default of these matters, which often end up largely as policing issues, will be addressed.

"It is not fair or reasonable to expect PSNI officers, year after year, to fill the void left within our community by failure to agree. As a society, we have a duty to find ways of moving forward on these issues."

Earlier, chairman of the Police Federation Terry Spence said the PSNI's handling of Union flag protests was unacceptable. He claimed the early and rapid deployment of baton rounds could have prevented injuries to officers.

Mr Ford said society had a duty to find ways of moving forward on contentious issues such as parading and the flying of flags.

"As a society, we ask a lot of our police service. Daily, police officers work in and with communities to keep Northern Ireland safe. Sadly, recent events have once again shown us that this is against the backdrop of a threat from those intent on dragging us back to the past," he said.

Meanwhile, there was praise for the courage, commitment and dedication of police officers who continue to face a dissident republican threat on a daily basis.

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