Belfast Telegraph

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne 'sorry' over Christmas Day tweet

Simon Byrne (centre) outside Crossmaglen PSNI station, a picture that he posted on Twitter
Simon Byrne (centre) outside Crossmaglen PSNI station, a picture that he posted on Twitter

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has apologised for an "offensive" Christmas Day tweet in which he posed with heavily armed officers in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh.

Mr Byrne was widely criticised for the tweet, which he said demonstrated the "stark reality" of policing in the area.

He issued a statement following meetings with Sinn Fein and SDLP representatives over the controversy on Monday and Tuesday.

The Chief Constable said the tweet was never meant as a comment on the community of south Armagh and he is sorry for any offence caused.

"Since taking up the post of Chief Constable, I have been looking at the visibility, accessibility and responsiveness of policing right across Northern Ireland," he added.

"As part of that ongoing work, I have commissioned a review of policing in south Armagh. The review will involve local officers, elected representatives and the local community.

"I am really proud of the local officers, who working together with local people, have made so much progress for policing and the community in recent years. It is only by working together that we will continue to make progress."

Following Tuesday's meeting, SDLP Slieve Gullion councillor Pete Byrne, who met with Simon Byrne along with the party's policing spokesperson Dolores Kelly, said: "[The Chief Constable] accepted that it was ill judged. We had a frank conversation about the importance of language and nuance," he added.

"We discussed the positive work that has been achieved in policing in south Armagh in recent years, citing the co-operation between the PSNI and Crossmaglen Community First Responders as an example.

"The Chief Constable also accepted my invitation to join me in Crossmaglen for further engagement and I look forward to that in the coming months."

Dolores Kelly said they had a "robust discussion" around the challenges of the "style and appearance" of "militarised stations" in Crossmaglen and Newtownhamilton.

"We discussed the slow pace of of transformation, the legacy of policing for communities like south Armagh and the ongoing cultural work that needed to take place within the PSNI," she said.

In his Christmas Day tweet, Simon Byrne praised officers after visiting the republican heartland.

"I take my hat off to colleagues policing such a unique part of [NI]. Their sense of duty and optimism is inspiring. Stay safe and thank you," he said.

After meeting Mr Byrne on Monday, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said he “urged him to urgently change the PSNI approach to policing in south Armagh”.

“The Christmas Day photo stunt in Crossmaglen made headlines, but is only symptomatic of a much wider problem with policing in the area,” he said.

“Over 20 years after Patten and the Good Friday Agreement, the police approach to the community in south Armagh has barely changed.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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