SF to sit on panel to select next NI chief constable

Sinn Fein Assembly member Linda Dillon will sit on a panel to select Northern Ireland’s next chief constable, the Policing Board said.

The PSNI’s oversight body said the process would be based on principles of merit, fairness, openness and transparency.

Sinn Fein President Mary-Lou McDonald previously said she would not have confidence in any current member of the force’s senior command team replacing George Hamilton when he retires in the summer.

Mr Hamilton branded her remarks “ill-judged, wrong and inaccurate”, and directly contrary to Sinn Fein’s professed advocacy of “integrity, fairness and equality”.

Board chair Anne Connolly said: “This is a significant appointment for policing and following discussions today, the board is fully confident that the process can move ahead with integrity and on the basis of equality of opportunity for all.”

Members appointed to the panel are Ms Connolly, John Blair from Alliance, Alan Chambers of the UUP, Ms Dillon, Dolores Kelly of the SDLP, Colm McKenna, Wendy Osborne and Mervyn Storey of the DUP.

To provide further assurance and confidence, the board agreed to incorporate additional independent scrutiny throughout the process to bring an extra level of scrutiny, probity and transparency.

Ms Connolly added: “In moving forward, it is the board’s priority to ensure the appointment process as a whole is based on principles of equality of opportunity for all potential candidates with the competition completed by the end of June 2019.”

Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman competition
Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman competition

Ms McDonald’s intervention followed serious criticism of the PSNI over its handling of a notorious shooting investigation.

Five people were killed on February 5 1992 when members of the loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) opened fire on the Sean Graham bookmakers shop on the lower Ormeau Road.

Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire said “significant, sensitive information” around the incident in south Belfast was not made available to his investigators of police conduct.

The Police Federation representative body has demanded an apology from Mrs McDonald while her comments have also sparked a wave of condemnation from political rivals, who claim she has compromised the recruitment process.