Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Police's medals long overdue recognition

The award of a new Police Service of Northern Ireland Medal, as revealed by this newspaper today, is welcome news. Indeed many people might say that it is long overdue
The award of a new Police Service of Northern Ireland Medal, as revealed by this newspaper today, is welcome news. Indeed many people might say that it is long overdue

Editor's Viewpoint

The award of a new Police Service of Northern Ireland Medal, as revealed by this newspaper today, is welcome news. Indeed many people might say that it is long overdue.

The medal is being awarded as a recognition of the contribution of the PSNI and its officers to society in Northern Ireland. It has been instituted under the Royal Warrant, and will be awarded to serving and retired officers who have completed five years' service from the date on which the terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland was officially raised to 'severe', namely on February 25, 2009.

Every posthumous award will be inscribed with the deceased officer's name, and presented to his or her family, which may help to bring them some comfort.

The linkage between the striking of the new medal and the increase in the terrorist threat is significant. The PSNI, which was established 18 years ago next month, has faced challenges throughout its history which are largely unknown to the UK's 44 other constabularies, and - if the truth be told - only intermittently experienced by their colleagues in the Garda Siochana.

While the PSNI officers may not have had to tackle the remorseless onslaught of republican, and in some cases, loyalist violence endured by their predecessors in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, they have nonetheless been left to deal with the outworking of our far from perfect political settlement.

To date seven police officers have paid with their lives, including constables Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr who were brutally murdered by dissident republicans.

Throughout the many public order crises in Northern Ireland since 2001 - including the Drumcree stalemate, the rise of dissident republicanism, flag protests and thankfully the decreasing stand-offs at parades - the men and women of the PSNI have been caught in the middle.

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In effect they have been bearing the burden of taking up the slack for the failings which in many cases should have been deposited on the doorsteps of our politicians.

Sadly, the continuing threat from dissident republican micro-groups and the alleged threat of loyalist violence should Boris Johnson try to align Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic in a Brexit compromise, would suggest that this unwelcome role for the PSNI might expand.

The late Brendan Behan famously said that there is no human solution so miserable that it cannot be made worse by the presence of a police officer. Most people, ourselves included, would beg to differ.

The PSNI has bravely held the line for all of us, and often at a huge personal cost to its officers, while the society it is charged with policing continues to indulge its customary dilatory approach to reform.

The new medal is a long-deserved recognition of the service of all these people, and in the case of Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr, of the ultimate sacrifice they made in their devotion to duty.

Belfast Telegraph

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