DCC Stephen Martin’s remarks about political stalemate led to inappropriate BBC exchange between politicians at bomb site

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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On BBC Newsline last night Arlene Foster and Michelle Gildernew appeared beside each other near where dissidents tried to murder PSNI.

In a display of apparent goodwill, the DUP leader did not say a word criticising Sinn Fein, despite the first question being about political stalemate that had been criticised by a PSNI leader.

But the Sinn Fein MP immediately said that the DUP had rejected a deal last year (yet it was Sinn Fein that collapsed Stormont, something Mrs Foster was rightly too polite to make — the interview should have been about the murder bid).

What triggered this inappropriate TV exchange was comments by PSNI deputy chief constable Stephen Martin. He called for action to move society on, saying “we have had two and a half years of no devolved institutions, we have unresolved issues around legacy” and “we have the uncertainty around EU exit” (see more of his comments on pages 4 and 5).

Some of the comments are uncontentious, and in fairness to DCC Martin he was asked various questions by the press. But a senior police officer would not have said such things in the past, and for good reason. Yes there is Brexit uncertainty —the UK is divided and the next moves are in the hands of the prime minister and EU. Police will have to deal with any fallout as will people across society whether they want to or not.

We have no devolved institutions because Sinn Fein collapsed them until it gets an Irish language act. Republicans reject that narrative, but that is the point — we don’t agree and it is a political matter how to resolve that split.

Legacy is unresolved because people who defend state forces, most of all are ex RUC, are concerned at the legacy bill.

It would be inappropriate for Mr Martin to take a side in that debate and he did not do so. But by appearing to criticise the stalemate he is almost taking a position against people who want direct rule or a line drawn under the past.

The public is fully behind the PSNI as they pursue thugs who try to murder them. We trust DCC Martin is bolstered by that goodwill and can focus on his difficult task ahead.