PSNI officers are heavily armed due to the republican terrorist threat

A row flared up yesterday when the new PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne tweeted a picture of armed officers in south Armagh on Christmas Day.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 27th December 2019, 12:06 am
Updated Friday, 27th December 2019, 12:25 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy described the picture as “utterly unacceptable”.

An SDLP councillor Pete Byrne said people across South Armagh were were hurt and offended on Christmas Day to see a “twitter post from the PSNI Chief Constable, featuring officers with heavy weaponry on show”.

In a sense, the controversy is understandable. Crossmaglen is nowhere near as dangerous as it once was for police officers, who during the Troubles could only travel about south Armagh with army protection.

The area is now, like the rest of Northern Ireland, subject to a “severe” terrorist threat warning, yet it is not known as a hotbed for dissident terrorist activity, as some other places seem to have become.

But while the image might not have been perfectly judged for Christmas Day, it was refreshing last night to see Mr Byrne put up at least a partial defence of his actions.

“The officers are carrying weapons and sadly this is the stark reality of the policing environment they work in, tackling the severe terrorist threat,” he said.

Officers in Crossmaglen “work in unique and often difficult circumstances” he pointed out, before adding: “This is no reflection on the local community who work daily with their local police officers to create a safe community.”

We are so used to people in authority, from NIO ministers down, rushing to apologise, even grovel, every time they are deemed to have offended nationalist Ireland.

Why do they bother? They never get credit for apologies.

In any event, an apology is not appropriate. While police leaders should be sensitive in their comments, the fact that their officers are heavily armed at times is wholly the fault of republican terrorist murderers.