One woman dominated the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly this week in London – not the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers who opened the Assembly on Monday, but Judith Gillespie OBE, Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI.
She was no uninspiring plod – all proceeding northerly in strangulated
officialise. She brought passion, conviction and incisiveness to the
She explained how the Patten report had been largely implemented and explained that she never would have thought, when she joined the RUC in 1982, that Northern Ireland would host, for example, the G8, the MTV awards and a royal visit – all without incident.
She argued that the PSNI was the most accountable police service in the world and detailed how it was coping with crises concerning “flags, parades, protests and the past.”
Gillespie told the Assembly that hundreds of officers had been injured in protests which also cost £50,000 a day.
LibDem Baroness Angie Harris said that if the equivalent of 700 police in GB had been injured Parliament would sit up all night to find solutions.
The Baroness asked the officer what she thought Northern Ireland politicians should do. This was deftly batted back with a careful answer – you better ask the politicians.
Sinn Fein’s Aengus O Snodaigh congratulated her on the “momentous change” in the PSNI and later told me he had initially been suspicious but his fears had been proven wrong.
Gillespie was the star of the show. Labour’s Alf Dubs said that if there were a vacancy in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, she would have his vote.
You can read her speech in full here.
Gary Kent is a graduate of international relations. After spells in management in British Rail and the Co-Op he began work in parliament in 1987 where he was active for two decades on Anglo-Irish peace activity against terrorism and now as secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, which he has visited 27 times since 2006. He used to be a columnist for Fortnight Magazine and writes a regular column for the Kurdish Rudaw outlet and many other publications.