Chief constable ditches plan to drop ‘Northern Ireland’ from PSNI crest
The chief constable has withdrawn controversial plans to drop the name Northern Ireland from the PSNI’s crest – now describing the proposal as “a non-starter”.
Simon Byrne had floated the idea on Friday, along with a range of other plans that included new livery for the PSNI fleet of vehicles, but has reacted to a backlash by saying he won’t persist as “there is no point in taking the proposal forward”.
Speaking to BBCNI on Tuesday, Mr Byrne said: “Clearly, there’s no point trying to push the ball uphill when we’ve got other priorities.”
On Monday, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland said the proposed change to the PSNI branding was “proving problematic” and that some serving officers had expressed concerns.
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Immediately following the chief constable’s announcement on Friday, DUP MLA Trevor Clarke said: “Given previous unwarranted reforms which eroded the status and vital contribution of the RUC, the understandable perception held by people in unionist communities is that the proposed demotion of ‘Northern Ireland’ on PSNI branding forms part of a trend of politically-motivated reforms to placate sections of our society whose support for policing is conditional at best.”
The Ulster Unionist Party said that any change to the branding must be carefully explained.
“We need to know why a change is being proposed and what the rationale is behind it,” a UUP spokesman said.
Revealing his change of plan, Mr Byrne said: “I don’t think it was a mistake because if you’re going to move on and be progressive you’ve got to test new ideas. So I think we close this issue down and keep the eye on the big prize, which is improving community policing.”
Speaking the News Letter ahead of Mr Byrne’s surprise announcement, former assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan said that any changes to the badges and emblems of the PSNI will be a political decision and not something that is within the remit of the chief constable.
Alan McQuillan oversaw the rebranding of policing in 2001 – from the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC to the current Police Service of Northern Ireland – and said all involved had “sweated blood” to get agreement on the current badges and emblems.
“There was a huge amount of effort to get symbols that were representative of both communities,” he said.
“I don’t think there is any conspiracy here. I think they have lost sight of where the powers to make these changes lie, and they clearly lie with the [NI] Assembly through regulations brought by the minister of justice,”
Mr McQuillan said the NIO “did a fantastic job” in conducting negotiations with the two main parties at the time – the SDLP and Ulster Unionists – to reach agreement on the emblems.
“We sweated blood on that – and they got the agreement just in time to get the manufacturing done to get the uniforms out on the street,” he said.
“We were faced with the prospect of having police officers with uniforms but no badges.”
Mr McQuillan said he believes Mr Bryne has “made a mistake” in proposing a change to how the emblems are displayed to the public, but added: “I totally support the chief constable in wanting to refresh the uniform...and changing how they present into a more modern way, but it has to be done legally and it has to be done with sensitivity.”
Responding to news of chief constable’s rethink, TUV leader Jim Allister said: “Having sent people out to spin the proposed changes to the Police Service of Northern Ireland branding and logo and found that the tissue paper excuses didn’t stand up to any serious challenge I welcome the fact that the chief constable has pulled these disgraceful proposals.”
Mr Allistair added: “Big questions remain about the genesis of these proposals. What role, if any, did the director of communications play in them? And the biggest question of all – just what are the unionists on the Policing Board doing? Having gone this far it is incumbent on the chief constable to complete the retreat by reversing the social media branding changes.”
In a statement on Tuesday evening, Mr Byrne said: “The name of the Police Service of Northern Ireland is set in law and will not be changing, nor will there be any changes to the service crest and emblems. I recognise entirely that the crest is enshrined in law.
“This has resulted in much debate and commentary and provoked a strong reaction from some. I have listened to the feedback and as a result can confirm that the simplified white version of the crest planned for use on social media and digital platforms will not now form part of the public consultation and will no longer be used.”
Mr Byrne added: “In the spirit of openness I was prepared to test other ideas and was keen to start an initial conversation. I want to move away from the use of the acronym PSNI and focus more on the word ‘police’. I am keen to develop this. Indeed, our social media platforms have recently been updated to reflect this.
“We will continue with our plans to launch our public consultation later this year and would welcome the feedback and contribution from all our communities to help shape the look and feel of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”
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