Republicans should have no more say on policing in Northern Ireland than anyone else, the DUP leader has said
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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said headlines about policing in recent weeks "have been the culmination of years where leadership in policing has been undermined”.
The Lagan Valley MP said: “When I talk about policing, the human sacrifice of officers’ lives, the impact on their mental health as well as the turmoil for families of officers is never far from my mind.”
He added: “The Donaldson family has a deep-rooted history in policing on these shores. My father’s cousin Samuel was the first RUC officer to be murdered by the IRA in August 1970. He was responding to call about a stolen vehicle and alongside his colleague Robert Millar, was murdered by an IRA booby-trap. “
Sir Jeffrey said that policing means “pursuing those who engage in criminality and break the law. We ought all to be equal under the law”.
He continued: “That is why the perception of two-tier policing is so corrosive to the fabric of democracy. If the rule of law is not being enforced without fear or favour, then a basic building block of our democratic society is giving way and eventually the whole structure will fall.
“Never was this so visible as the hands-off approach to the IRA funeral of Bobby Storey and the revelation that the police, whether inadvertently or otherwise, provided Sinn Fein with a defence from prosecution.
“As I travel around Northern Ireland, I still meet people who tell me how they buried their father or mother without their own children present so they could adhere to the covid health rules. To this day, they are furious that Sinn Fein organised a funeral for the IRA’s Bobby Storey, brought thousands of people onto the streets for a political rally in a graveyard and the police were complicit in the organising the event rather than in upholding the health rules."
The DUP leader said: “The Metropolitan Police, amidst its own problems, was able to hold people in Westminster who broke covid rules accountable yet, the PSNI failed to hold people in Sinn Fein accountable for similar actions. Why?
“During that same covid period, other organisations brought people on to the streets, yet the PSNI policed those events in a different manner than the approach they took to Bobby Storey’s funeral. Therein lies the problem. Sinn Fein’s word should carry no more weight with the next chief constable than that of any other elected representative. There can be no more cases where its ‘one rule for Sinn Fein and another rule for the rest of us’.”
Sir Jeffrey called for “cultural and systematic change” at senior levels of the PSNI.
"A High Court judgement only last month, confirmed that Sinn Fein were wrongly seeking to have two officers disciplined for doing their job and following orders. The next chief constable and their senior command must be policing focused, not politics focused.
“Policing will not be successful unless it commands support across the community. There can be no more cases where a dozen Land Rovers are dispatched to observe a small band parade yet not a Land Rover can be found to police a paramilitary show of strength where shots are fired.”
He also called for “a concerted effort to recruit a new generation of officers from working class communities across Northern Ireland” and for policing to be encouraged in schools as a career”. Noting that nationalists were calling for 50:50 recruitment restored, he said: “They want 50% of recruits to be Roman Catholic in each recruitment round. We will oppose such a retrograde step. The only consideration in recruitment should be one’s ability to be a good police officer not their religious background.”