| 0°C Belfast

Policing decisions should not be based on politics, says Arlene Foster

The DUP leader met with Chief Constable Simon Byrne to discuss Sean Graham memorial incident


Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster said policing decision matters should be “based on the law and not politics” after meeting Chief Constable Simon Byrne regarding Friday’s controversial operation at a memorial event for Troubles victims.

Police intervened at the commemoration for victims of a loyalist massacre at a bookmakers shop on the Ormeau Road in Belfast.

Mark Sykes, who was shot several times in the 1992 attack, was handcuffed and arrested in the exchanges.

Mr Byrne apologised on Saturday for what happened and confirmed that an inexperienced police officer had been suspended.

The conduct of the two officers captured in footage of the incident is being examined by the Police Ombudsman.

Sinn Fein has claimed there is a nationalist crisis of confidence in policing, while Mr Byrne dismissed allegations that the PSNI adopts different approaches for different communities.

Mrs Foster led a DUP delegation in a meeting with the Chief Constable on Monday.

Speaking afterwards, the DUP leader said Mr Byrne’s response has the “hallmarks of trial by social media and of two young officers being scapegoated” - something the Chief Constable previously denied.

“We need fair and impartial policing, free from political influence,” stated Mrs Foster. “Decisions should be based on the law and not politics.

“Due process should be the trademark of the police. The swift response by the Chief Constable has all the hallmarks of trial by social media and of two young officers being scapegoated.

“This will inevitably cause alarm among those starting their career in the police.”

Mrs Foster added that any decisions regarding what happened at the memorial commemoration on Friday should have been made after the completion of the Police Ombudsman investigation.

“Given the antics of Sinn Fein at the Storey funeral and their disregard for Covid-19 rules, their criticism of the police rings utterly hollow,” she continued.

“The anniversaries of atrocities at Kingsmills and Teebane were marked respectfully and lawfully. There is a duty on all organisers to act in compliance with the law.

“While we understand the need for a proportionate and sensitive policing response, operational decisions must be fair and balanced. There should be no apology for enforcing the rule of law.”

Belfast Telegraph