Belfast Telegraph

'Prisoners release a heavy price, but price worth paying' for peace says PSNI Chief Constable

By Gareth Cross

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said that the release of prisoners following the Good Friday Agreement was a 'heavy price, but a price worth paying' for peace.

He said that although it was a difficult thing for many in society, it was worth it in the end for the relative peace it has brought to Northern Ireland.

Chief Constable Hamilton was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan Show on Tuesday.

Mr Nolan asked the Chief Constable what he felt after the release of prisoners, including those who had killed his RUC colleagues.

"It was difficult, it was uncomfortable. Of course it was a dilemma for many of us," he told him.

"It didn't rest easy with me, people getting out of prison after being involved in murder and other terrorist activity.

"I think that was a mark of the political leadership being displayed at the time and needed to be done to move us onto the next stage."

Mr Hamilton said that many lives had been saved as a result of the Agreement.

"It's a massive sacrifice, but think of the people who would be dead today if not for the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

"My personal opinion is that it was a heavy price to pay, it didn't rest easy with me, but on reflection it was a price worth paying.

"It has brought the level of terrorism here to an all-time low."

Mr Hamilton told the show that he believed policing was one of the major success of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The one thing I think has been an absolute success from the Good Friday Agreement is policing," he told the show's listeners.

"Crime is around 40% lower than 1998, confidence in policing is up, accepting there are pockets where we have alot of work to do.

"We are more diverse and representative than we have ever been."

He said that the PSNI had been the one constant since the agreement.

"I believe policing has been a success story, we are the one institution that has been sustainable through the entire peace process since 1998," he said.

"Policing is here and I believe doing a good job supporting communities and there is ever increasing confidence in what we are doing.

"We accept we still have a way to go."

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