By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
The DUP leader has warned that there needs to be an “urgent change of policy, or an urgent change of leadership” in the PSNI following controversy over the publication of a review of policing operations in south Armagh.
But Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also welcomed a commitment from chief constable Simon Byrne to rebuild confidence with the unionist community.
A row erupted after Northern Ireland’s police chief launched the report on Tuesday which contained 50 recommendations, including closing down the heavily fortified Crossmaglen police station, closer working relations with An Garda Siochana and exploring the relocation of memorials to fallen officers.
It led to a furious backlash from unionist politicians, some of whom have called on the chief constable to resign.
On Thursday, Mr Byrne said that a number of recommendations from the report would not be taken forward, and stressed that memorials to murdered officers would not be removed from, or moved within operational police stations.
He also reaffirmed his commitment to “listening to unionist community concerns and rebuilding confidence”.
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne
Speaking to the media on Friday, Sir Jeffrey said it was a “welcome first step”, but added that much more needed to be done.
He said: “Confidence within unionism in terms of the current policing arrangements, current policing policy, is at rock bottom.
“If we are to rebuild that confidence then there needs to be change, that is either an urgent change of policy or an urgent change of leadership.
“We need to see that happening and happening quickly.
“I think it is absolutely clear that the chief constable needs to build on this statement, it is not just about the policy in south Armagh, it is about the policy all over Northern Ireland.
“It is about engaging, it is about ensuring that we don’t have a situation where people believe there is two-tier policing; one law for one set, another law for the rest of us.
“That is not acceptable.”
After he briefed his oversight body, the Policing Board, and met with a DUP delegation on Thursday, Mr Byrne said that a number of controversial recommendations in the south Armagh policing review would not be progressed.
He said: “No memorials will be removed from, or moved within, our buildings.
“At no time was it envisaged that there would be joint patrolling by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Siochana.
“The issue of hot pursuit will not be taken forward without the agreement of both governments.
“This recommendation will not, therefore, be progressed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“No action will be taken with regard to the use of Irish language unless it is in line with the approach being taken across the Northern Ireland public sector more widely.”