Belfast Telegraph

Police chief urges Stormont leaders to fill political vacuum

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said the powersharing impasse had created space for extremism to grow.

Simon Byrne (PA)
Simon Byrne (PA)

By David Young, PA

Northern Ireland’s police chief has warned the region’s leaders that the powersharing impasse is creating a political vacuum that extremists are exploiting.

Simon Byrne urged Stormont politicians to “do what needs to be done” to get devolution back up and running.

He has written to the leaders of the main parties to stress the need for political decision-making on key issues facing the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

As he flagged the continued severity of the threat posed by dissident republicans, Mr Byrne said “extreme ideas” were being given space to develop in the absence of powersharing.

The police chief revealed that the PSNI had made 138 arrests for terrorist offences during 2019 so far.

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Simon Byrne said he had nowhere to go for political answers to the issues facing policing (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said he had “nowhere to go” to get answers on big issues such as policing legacy investigations and modernising the PSNI.

On the day when health care staff were striking across the region, Mr Byrne also noted the “inertia” that was impacting wider public services.

“I recognise how important a time it is at the moment for Northern Ireland as politicians do the hard work to see if it’s possible to get an executive back together and I wish them well on behalf of the PSNI in those talks,” he said.

Asked to assess the impact of the three-year political deadlock, he said: “I think it creates a vacuum that lets all sorts of other things fill it, whether it is extreme ideas, the inertia of the management of public service which is playing out at the moment.

“And I have got nowhere to go to for answers on some of the big issues that affect how we police.

“I would welcome the introduction of devolution and a working government so we can get answers to the big questions that I need to resolve.”

Asked what his message for the politicians would be, Mr Byrne said: “Take this chance to get round the table and do what needs to be done to get us back working within an executive so I can bring forward our plans, with the Policing Board, to modernise the PSNI and make Northern Ireland safer.”

PA

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