The Chief Constable Matt Baggott has managed to attract the ire of unionists. In an interview with the Belfast telegraph (not on line as yet) He says he would call on police forces in England, Wales or even the Republic, if necessary, to help in investigations and wants to see the PSNI and Garda working even more closely, particularly along the border, which he describes as merely an artificial line when it comes to policing. In addition he said that if he lived in a border area he “would probably be less hung-up on the sensitivities providing my family were being looked after.” Unsurprisingly this has resulted in a furious reaction from unionists:Keith Harbinson the TUV Vice Chairman stated: The reality is that Mr Baggott doesnt live in a border area. Perhaps if he did he would share the widespread resentment of Unionists in those areas at the fact that the Irish Republic was effectively a safe-haven for terrorists throughout the Troubles. The inability or reluctance of Garda officers to combat the IRA threat emanating from the south was what made those areas so dangerous over a thirty year period. and accused Baggott of political meddling: In a meeting with TUV a few weeks ago the Chief Constable attempted to argue that he was above politics. This, of course, ignored the fact that he had already gone on record as supporting the devolution of policing and justice powers to the failed, terrorist inclusive executive at Stormont. Now he has made a statement, which could easily have emanated from a Sinn Fein/IRA press release.”
The UUPs Tom Elliot called his views arrogant: “I live in the border area – I have been brought up in the border area. I have seen how the police and members of the public have been constantly targeted by republicans. How therefore can he say that the border is artificial – in saying so he is playing into the dissidents hands.”
“For him to claim that we should be more concerned about the safety of our families is nonsense – of course that is what everyone wants. That should be the entitlement of everyone living within the United Kingdom – that is something the dissidents are trying to disrupt.”
“I understand that cross border cooperation is needed, but his idyllic theories of how ‘it would all be great’ if we could all work together show his ignorance and complete lack of understanding of Northern Ireland’s particular circumstances.”
Ian Paisley Junior stated that:“Commentary of a political nature is not appropriate for someone in such a sensitive post. and promised to bring the matter up at the Policing Board.
Possibly Mr. Baggott will think a little more carefully about his comments before his next venture into media interviews. He might even try talking to members of the community in Fermanagh (he could use the mobile police station). Whatever his long term ambitions (even if they include a job back in GB) alienating large numbers of politicians within a few weeks of starting the job is hardly clever. In addition as he has already explained his enthusiasm for the devolution of policing and justice, this may not be the cleverest way of encouraging it and indeed if P&J is devolved antagonising his future political masters is not an especially clever idea. Unless of course he thinks that unionists might now try to get policing and justice devolved to help get rid of him????