Given the currency of the debate on reform of the Garda oversight system in the Republic, and Sinn Fein’s settled view that an NI style policing board system – ie, where power is distributed between a basket of political parties – is preferable to direct control by the minister it’s a little odd that their most senior representative on the PBNI has, as the Belfast Telegraph reports:
“…taken a civil case against the PSNI chief constable (Matt Baggott) over the incident in Carrick Hill last year. Gerry Kelly, in common with any other citizen, is entitled to access the courts when he believes he has been wronged.”
In fact, the Chief Constable Matt Baggott is already directly accountable to the Policing Board of which Gerry is a senior and influential member. Indeed Mr Kelly’s predecessor Alex Maskey was prominent in photo calls at the appointment of the Chief Constable.
Importantly, in Northern Ireland the CC is accountable to the Policing Board, not the Justice Minister.
In southern terms this would be the equivalent of the Minster suing the Garda Commissioner. In northern terms it comes pretty close to an employer (who already has the means to make the CC accountable through their own internal mechanisms) suing an employee.
More damagingly, Kelly’s legal action trashes the notion that the policing board system is fit for purpose, thereby undermining the party’s own southern policy.
The BelTel piece doesn’t make clear the grounds on which the Sinn Fein MLA is taking the civil action on, so advice of a party colleague, I’ve asked him to respond directly through Twitter:
@GerryKellyMLA On what grounds are you taking a civil case, given PSNI is already answerable to you? @NiallSF @MartyOPrey @davidcullinane
— Mick Fealty (@mickfealty) February 24, 2014
We’ll keep you posted…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty