Northern Ireland Policing Board meets for the first time in two years

The first meeting of the newly reconstituted Northern Ireland Policing Board was dominated by last weekend’s car bomb attack in Londonderry.

The body has not met in a fully constituted form in almost two years following the collapse of powersharing government at Stormont and absence of government ministers.

The Policing Board acts in an oversight role for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), and consists of 19 members including 10 political representatives.

Ulster powersharing
Ulster powersharing

The politicians had not been appointed since the last Assembly election in March 2017.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley brought forward legislation last autumn to enable the appointment of political representatives last year.

Last November, Ms Bradley confirmed the political appointments of Keith Buchanan, Joanne Bunting, Gary Middleton, Mervyn Storey from the DUP, Gerry Kelly, Linda Dillon, Philip McGuigan for Sinn Fein, John Blair for Alliance, Dolores Kelly for the SDLP and Alan Chambers for the UUP.

Drew Harris
Drew Harris

It came after PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton raised concerns there was no mechanism to make temporary appointments to his senior command team permanent.

Since it last met in February 2017, a number of key decisions have arisen, such as appointing a permanent successor for the former deputy chief constable Drew Harris, who went on to become the Republic of Ireland’s new garda commissioner.

At Thursday’s meeting, members unanimously recorded thanks to the police for their work in responding to the bomb attack on the court house in Derry and the subsequent series of hoax devices.

They also formally appointed Anne Connolly as chair and Debbie Watters as vice chair.

At the first formal meeting of @NIPolicingBoard today, Members unanimously recorded thanks to the police for their work in responding to the bomb attack at the weekend – read the full statement here https://t.co/ZR9Uhiudgqpic.twitter.com/ohssuL6hdd

— NI Policing Board (@NIPolicingBoard) January 24, 2019

DUP members of the board welcomed the meeting as a “positive step forward”.

Mr Storey said: “It should have happened immediately after the 2017 Assembly election but Sinn Fein’s boycott of the Assembly and Executive prevented the appointment of political members.

“The Policing Board has a key role in holding the Police Service of Northern Ireland to account.

“But, it is equally important that the work of our schools and hospitals is scrutinised.”

DUP
DUP

East Londonderry MLA Mr Middleton added: “There is an obvious threat posed by the activities of dissident republican terrorists.

“We have witnessed that in just the last few days.

“It is important the police have the capacity and resources to deal with that.”

The next public meeting of the Policing Board is set to be held on February 7.