In a post yesterday, noting the major search operation across Northern Ireland and the arrest for questioning of 5 men in connection with the murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr, I linked to a UTV report quoting “the Deputy First Minister”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA.
“We have to continue to support police in their investigations of any of those actions which taken the lives of any of our citizens – including those members of the police service.”
Today, UTV quotes him again, wearing a different hat…
Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Martin McGuinness said he knows the family of the young man who was “arrested yesterday in a blaze of publicity” in Coalisland and later released.
“I have been in contact with the PSNI at the top level to register my dissatisfaction and annoyance at the operation in Coalisland,” Mr McGuinness said.
“The nature of the operation has caused widespread anger in the local community. That is a reality the PSNI will now have to face.”
And his party colleague, Francie Molloy, MLA, adds
Sinn Féin MLA Francie Molloy said: “It was a very heavy handed operation, reminiscent of the bad old days of police searches and raids at homes,” he told UTV.
“I think it has damaged the relations between police and the community in this area severely and it will take some time to recover that.”
He added: “It did seem like a PR operation.”
The report quotes the PSNI’s response
The PSNI have issued a statement responding to the claims.
“This investigation is being conducted to the highest professional standards,” a police spokesperson told UTV.
The 22-year-old arrested in Coalisland has since been released on Wednesday afternoon.
The officer in charge of the murder investigation, Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray, said: “Today’s activities are the latest stage in the ongoing investigation into Ronan’s murder and related incidents.
“Our determination to pursue every possible line of enquiry remains undiminished.”
While he said that support and assistance from the community had been encouraging, he added: “During this search stage, we would ask for people’s continued patience and co-operation as we work to complete our enquiries to maximum effect, as expeditiously as possible and with the minimum amount of disruption to community life.”
There’s been a new arrest today, btw. And the other 4 men arrested yesterday are still being questioned.
Of course, there is an established mechanism for making a complaint about the PSNI. And even a Northern Ireland Policing Board, on which a number of Sinn Féin MLAs sit, “to ensure for all the people of Northern Ireland the delivery of an effective, efficient, impartial, representative and accountable police service”. They’ve even got a new committee.
But, apparently, that’s not good enough. For some. [Does it matter who you know? – Ed] You might very well think that…
Adds The other 4 men arrested yesterday have now also been released.
It follows the earlier release of a 22-year-old man arrested in Coalisland on Tuesday in connection with the killing.
A 23-year-old woman arrested in Omagh on Wednesday in connection with the murder remains in custody.
Update From today’s BBC report
The police said in a statement that: “The investigation is protracted and wide-ranging, encompassing the murder of Constable Kerr and associated incidents.
“It is being conducted to the highest professional standards. Police have a duty to follow all lines of inquiry without fear or favour, and in accordance with the law.”
Adds The updated BBC report now contains a statement from PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott
Chief Constable Matt Baggott said the PSNI investigation was complex and would take considerable time to complete.
“The Policing Board is the appropriate place for scrutiny to take place, particularly during a live and sensitive investigation. For that reason, the PSNI will not be commenting further,” he said.
Responding to Mr McGuinness’s criticisms, the chief constable said the investigation into Ronan Kerr’s murder was being “conducted under the law”.
“Future charges remain the responsibility of the independent Public Prosecution Service,” he said.
“Any comment is therefore premature. My assurance is that the investigation will remain methodical and relentless and will continue to be absolutely impartial and completely free of political influence.
“I am very satisfied with the professionalism and progress to date and will be reporting on this to the Policing Board in due course.”