Chief Constable under fire from victims after tweeting picture of video meeting

Chief Constable Simon Byrne has been urged to increase his engagement with terror victims after he tweeted a picture of a video meeting with a delegation that included convicted killer Harry Maguire.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

Maguire, now a director with Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI), was one of a number of restorative justice figures involved in the talks with Mr Byrne and acting ACC Bobby Singleton on Thursday.

Mr Maguire was handed a life sentence for his role in the abduction and murder of army corporals Derek Howes and David Wood.

The two corporals, who were armed but in plain clothes, had strayed into the path of an IRA funeral in west Belfast on March 19, 1988 and were attacked by the large crowd of mourners.

Kenny Donaldson of the victims’ group SEFF (South East Fermanagh Foundation), said victims of terrorism should not be ignored just because they “do not carry status as ‘hard men’”.

Mr Donaldson said: “We have no control over the individuals or organisations that the Chief Constable chooses to engage with, those decisions are matters of judgement for him and his management team.

“However what we are entitled to have a view on is his unwillingness to meet with our organisation nor to engage with our members to discuss issues for which he ultimately has oversight.

“Today in the public domain we reiterate our request that the chief constable makes himself available to meet with us; belatedly treat the largest constituency of victims/survivors (Innocent Victims United family of groups) with the respect they surely have earned.

“Prove to our members that they do have a stake and that they will no longer be disadvantaged by your engagement strategy”.

Mr Donaldson added: “Our members may not carry status as ‘hard men,’ and no they didn’t murder their neighbour or threat criminal violence if they weren’t appeased but the chief constable needs to recognise their legitimacy.”

Following the online meeting with the CRJI, Simon Byrne tweeted: “Thanks for the chance to talk about visible, accessible, local policing supported by problem solving and good community engagement @PoliceServiceNI.”

One of those who responded was loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, who a group representing former loyalist prisoners had not been able to secure a meeting with the senior PSNI officers.

He said: “East Belfast ACT requested a meeting with PSNI a month ago. No response beyond an acknowledgment. As ever, the priority is engagement with republican communities whilst loyalists are treated like an underclass.”

A PSNI spokesman said: “Community Restorative Justice Ireland are an accredited criminal justice organisation. The chief constable regularly meets with people representing all sections of our community. Officers from the PSNI have met with representatives of the South East Fermanagh Foundation and will continue to engage with them along with many other groups who represent the needs of victims.”

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