Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: New police chief will have a mountain to climb in meeting the challenges that are unique to the job in Northern Ireland

Simon Byrne
Simon Byrne

Editor's Viewpoint

The fact that the new Chief Constable of the PSNI was agreed unanimously by the selection panel is a strong indication of the mettle and expertise of the man.

However, he will not be long in the job in Northern Ireland before he realises that policing here is different from elsewhere in the UK.

Simon Byrne has many challenges to face and most are extremely difficult to counter.

The most immediate problem he faces comes from dissident republicans. These may be micro organisations but they are nonetheless potentially deadly and certainly fanatical.

And depending on how Brexit pans out, the dissidents may be further encouraged if a hard border is established. This was recognised by the outgoing Chief Constable who asked for funding for an additional 400 officers and who suspended the sale of former border stations because of what he termed a "severe" threat from dissidents along the border.

Funding is another crucial area. The PSNI budget was cut by £122m during George Hamilton's tenure and that has impacted on services. Recruitment is another problem as the percentage of Catholics in the force remains steady at 30%, well below its representation in the wider community.

Another problem Mr Byrne will not have encountered elsewhere is dealing with the legacy of the past and investigating historic murders. These issues are all on top of the myriad of problems police deal with on a daily basis.

Mr Byrne will need all the experience he has gained during his 30 years as a police officer, 21 of them in senior roles, and he will also have to earn the respect of the community at large who will be quick to point out any perceived grievances.

At £207,489 it is a well rewarded job but he will definitely earn every penny of that salary if he makes a success of his appointment.

We wish him well in the post as he takes over from a man who was well regarded for his plain speaking and effective leadership.

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