Black Lives Matter: DUP defends PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne after his meeting with protest organiser

The DUP has defended the Chief Constable after he met a a Black Lives Matter protest leader, to build bridges in the wake of a critical Police Ombudsman’s report.

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 2:06 pm
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne chatting to Mayor Graham Warke and Lilian Seenoi-Barr at a NW Migrants Forum family fun day at Brooke Park in Londonderry.

In June last year police handed out about 70 fines at Black Lives Matter protests in Belfast and Londonderry.

Mr Byrne apologised after a report in December by Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson investigated claims that policing of the protests was unfair and discriminatory.

She found that the claims “have substance and are justified” but that it had not been intentional and was not based on race or ethnicity.

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Mr Byrne attended an event in Londonderry organised by the North West Migrants Forum on Saturday to hear first hand the impact of policing on ethnic minorities.

He told the BBC: “Sometimes it’s about being bold enough to say when things have gone wrong.”

The North West Migrants Forum is run by Lilian Seenoi-Barr, who is also an SDLP councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council.

She was involved in organising the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Londonderry.

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster yesterday, she said they had only agreed to meet Mr Byrne after he had apologised for how the protests were handled.

“The wrongs were made right and I think it is time we now started to build relationships so that our community can build confidence with the police,” she told the BBC.

She added: “We don’t take racism seriously here. There are a lot of people who don’t even believe it exists...The PSNI has enough records to show that racism has now surpassed sectarianism.”

Ms Seenoi-Barr added: “We have children who want to wear a police uniform and they do not have that confidence to do that.”

At present the PSNI does not reflect the demographics of society, she added.

But Trevor Clarke MLA, Chairman of the Policing Board performance committee and DUP spokesman on policing, defended Mr Byrne.

“There have been ongoing recruitment drives to address imbalances for working class Protestants in policing too, so there is work to do in all these areas,” he said last night.

He had not seen the statistics quoted by Ms Seenoi-Barr about racist offences surpassing sectarian crimes, and said he did not know if they were accurate.

“However all racist and sectarian offences are equally bad and need to be dealt with,” he said.

He said the Chief Constable asked to meet the Executive early in the pandemic to discuss difficulties in enforcing Covid regulations. “If that had happened then some of these difficulties might not have happened,” he added.

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