Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein meet PSNI's Simon Byrne over tweet ‘stunt’

 

The photograph posted on Twitter by Chief Constable Simon Byrne (centre) on Christmas Day
The photograph posted on Twitter by Chief Constable Simon Byrne (centre) on Christmas Day

By Eimear McGovern

Sinn Fein has called on the PSNI Chief Constable to review its approach to policing in south Armagh after a Christmas Day tweet in which he posed with heavily armed officers in Crossmaglen.

Simon Byrne was widely criticised for posting the photo, taken outside a police station in the republican heartland. He said it demonstrated the “stark reality” of policing in certain parts of Northern Ireland.

After meeting Mr Byrne on Monday, Conor Murphy MLA 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.”

The SDLP's policing spokesperson Dolores Kelly and Crossmaglen Councillor Pete Byrne will also meet with the Chief Constable on Tuesday at Ardmore Station in Newry.

Mr Byrne praised police after his Christmas Day visit to the republican heartland in his tweet.

"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 tweet.

Following a barrage of criticism he acknowledged his tweet "has caused some emotion". He said he looked forward to meeting politicians and community representatives "to discuss how we can move forward together, and I look forward to a time when we no longer have to police in such a high security environment".

"This was a visit by me on Christmas Day to support local officers who do work in unique and often difficult circumstances," he said.

"The officers are carrying weapons and, sadly, this is the stark reality of the policing environment they work in, tackling the severe terrorist threat.

"This is no reflection on the local community who work daily with their local police officers to create a safe community.

"There is no doubt that much progress has been made in the towns and villages of south Armagh and my Christmas Day visit to officers who are working really hard to contribute to this progress is an indication of my commitment to build safer communities and tackle the terrorist threat."

PA

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