Sinn Fein leader to meet PSNI chief next week

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald plans to meet PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton next week.

The meeting comes after an ongoing dispute between the two after Mrs McDonald said she would not have confidence in any current member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) senior command team replacing Mr Hamilton when he retires in the summer.

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

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton (Liam McBurney/PA)

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.

Legal advice received by the Policing Board has said there could now be legislative vulnerability if politicians sit on the panel.

Mrs McDonald said she has not sought any legal advice on her comments on the recruitment of the new chief constable.

“Any advice received by the Policing Board has to be considered by the Policing Board,” she said.

“They are meeting tomorrow and they should be allowed space to pursue their job and consider any advice they receive.

“I’m more than happy to allow the Policing Board to do its job.”

Mrs McDonald did not say if she now regretted the comments, but said she would speak with Mr Hamilton in the next 10 days.

“I am hopeful I will meet George in the next week and I’ll have a conversation with him directly,” she said.

“The conversation we need to have is about the disclosure of critical information to the policing ombudsman, to the courts and other authorities, to assist families and victims who are looking for closure and facts, and I think everybody is duty-bound to do everything they can to make sure that happens.

“The job of recruitment of the chief constable lies in the hands of the Policing Board, that’s always been the case,” the Sinn Fein leader added.

“I have no authority or influence in that regard, my concern has been for families, in particular the families of the Sean Graham bookies.

“Significant information was kept from the policing ombudsman, that to me is outrageous and there has been no credible, plausible reason offered up for that.

“It’s a case of grave concern to me, and more significantly the families, and it’s something we need to get to the bottom of.”

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.

It emerged that the PSNI failed to disclose “significant information” relating to the notorious shooting.

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

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.