A Chief Constable acting with more consideration for Stormont than due process should give us all pause for thought…

It’s been three weeks since Tom Kelly called for the resignation of the Chief Constable after the data breach. What brings this to a crisis though is yesterday’s judgement that he disciplined two officers ‘to allay a threat to Sinn Féin policing support’.

I feel about Chief Constables much the same as Secretaries of State: they exist so our toothless incumbents (toothless because the DUP and SF are too rigid to find the compromises that would make consociationalism work) have someone else to blame.

This latest episode involves a face off between Byrne’s word against that Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly that the latter threatened to withdraw their support for the PSNI if the CC did not take action (a threat that would take us straight into politicised policing).

I believe Kelly when he says he did not ask for that to happen. But you don’t always have to say out loud what you want someone else to hear. More concerning is a CC acting with more consideration for the future of Stormont than due process.

Sure you can put all the blame on the CC (and given recent last weeks who wouldn’t?). Or you can look at how this politicising of the police service is making the job itself untenable. In recent weeks, he’s faced calls to resign from both the DUP and SF.

Hugh Orde met such machinations around the Policing Board table with a steely resistence to anyone seeking to give him instructions as to how he made operational decisions. But as time has gone that resolve to remain independent has waned.

I don’t doubt Byrne has questions to answer, but the slow creep of political control over what is supposed to be an independent police won’t just be solved by making another appointment. Police in a democracy ought to be reflective and responsive.

But not simply to the overweening political ambitions of elected politicians. The police services’s  mandate is to serve the people by observing and enforcing the law. Besides, who does the Policing Board think they’re going to get to take the job next?

It’s surely time to take a break, to pull the camera lens out and examine the wider picture. Rather than just react to one crisis after another, take five to look up discuss where such louche interpretations of the law may take us?

University professors, students, intellectuals were turning Nazi, becoming Iron Guards, one after the other. At the beginning, certainly they were not Nazis. About fifteen of us would get together to talk and to try to find arguments opposing theirs. It was not easy. From time to time, one of our friends said: “I don’t agree with them, to be sure, but on certain points, nevertheless, I must admit, for example, the Jews…” Towards the end, only three or four of us were still resisting.

-Eugène Ionesco

Discover more from Slugger O'Toole

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

We are reader supported. Donate to keep Slugger lit!

For over 20 years, Slugger has been an independent place for debate and new ideas. We have published over 40,000 posts and over one and a half million comments on the site. Each month we have over 70,000 readers. All this we have accomplished with only volunteers we have never had any paid staff.

Slugger does not receive any funding, and we respect our readers, so we will never run intrusive ads or sponsored posts. Instead, we are reader-supported. Help us keep Slugger independent by becoming a friend of Slugger. While we run a tight ship and no one gets paid to write, we need money to help us cover our costs.

If you like what we do, we are asking you to consider giving a monthly donation of any amount, or you can give a one-off donation. Any amount is appreciated.