Foster: Police chief recruitment ‘compromised’ by SF leader remarks

The process to appoint a new chief constable in Northern Ireland has been compromised, DUP leader Arlene Foster said.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has declined to apologise for voicing opposition to any current police commander in Northern Ireland succeeding the retiring George Hamilton.

Ms Foster criticised the comments and said her party had told the Policing Board it wants legal opinion taken.

She told the BBC: “I thought they were very foolish, first of all because essentially what has happened is that the process has now been compromised.

“The leader of one of the political parties involved in the panel has made her feelings quite clear and that of course interferes with due process and the panel has now been compromised.”

The Sinn Fein president said she would not be retracting her controversial comments about who should replace Mr Hamilton when he steps down in June.

“There’s nothing to apologise for, there’s no retraction to be made,” said Mrs McDonald, dismissing criticism of her remarks as “political huffing and puffing”.

The republican leader said she would have “no role” in appointing the next police chief and said the Sinn Fein representative on the recruitment panel would act in accordance with rules and regulations.

Sinn Fein Assembly member John O’Dowd accused the DUP of hypocrisy.

“The PSNI’s failure to provide evidence to the Ombudsman on dozens of killings by loyalist death squads is appalling.

“Arlene Foster has had nothing to say about that but is quite happy to attack Sinn Fein.”

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.

On Monday in Belfast, Mrs McDonald said she would not have confidence in any current member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) senior leadership team taking the helm of the organisation.

Her comments came after she met bereaved families caught up in a controversy involving the PSNI’s failure to disclose documents about historic killings to Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman.

The PSNI’s oversight body, the Policing Board, is responsible for appointing the chief constable.

A Sinn Fein appointee will be on the board panel that makes the decision.

The original comments came during a press conference in south Belfast during which she claimed the PSNI had “zero credibility” in its handling of cases linked to the legacy of the Troubles.

Last week, it emerged that the PSNI failed to disclose “significant information” relating to a notorious loyalist mass shooting.

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

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.

Dr Maguire’s office said the non-disclosed material, which it has now obtained, has opened new lines of inquiry in its investigation into the Ormeau Road shootings, as well as activities of loyalist paramilitaries in the north west between 1988 and 1994, and its probe into the murder of teenager Damien Walsh at a coal depot in west Belfast in 1993.

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