PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne resigns ‘with immediate effect’

Resignation statement: ‘Regardless of the rights and wrongs it is now time for someone new to lead this proud and resolute organisation’

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable Simon Byrne has resigned from the post.

The development was confirmed on Monday afternoon following an emergency meeting of the Policing Board for Northern Ireland, which holds the PSNI to account.

Board chair Deirdre Toner confirmed to reporters that Mr Byrne had resigned with immediate effect.

Mr Byrne, who took up post in 2019, had faced mounting pressure to step down following a series of controversies over the past month.


Ms Toner described him as a “dedicated police officer with a deep respect for the profession of policing”.

“His tenure was subjected to intense scrutiny and I am sure the last few weeks in particular have been incredibly difficult for him personally and professionally,” she said.

A personal statement from Mr Byrne was read out by the policing board during Monday’s press conference.

“The last few days have been very difficult for all concerned,” the statement read. “Regardless of the rights and wrongs it is now time for someone new to lead this proud and resolute organisation.

“Can I thank those who have shown me trust, advice and friendship. And of course thank you to the brave men and women of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”

The board questioned Mr Byrne for five hours in a meeting last Thursday after a court ruled that two officers were unlawfully disciplined for an arrest at a Troubles commemoration event.

The judge said they had been disciplined to allay a threat that Sinn Féin could withdraw its support for policing. Sinn Féin denied any such threat.

Mr Byrne insisted he would not resign following last Thursday’s meeting and indicated that he was considering an appeal against the court ruling.

That move sparked outrage among the Police Federation, which represents rank and file PSNI officers, with its chair Liam Kelly expressing “disbelief and anger”.

Mr Kelly said officers were “disgusted, disillusioned and extremely angry” at the leadership of the chief constable.

Last month, the chief constable also faced calls to resign following an unprecedented data breach in which the details of 10,000 police officers and staff were accidentally put on the internet.

Mr Byrne was due to appear before the Westminster Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning to give evidence on the data breach.

On Wednesday, the Police Federation was due to hold an extraordinary meeting.

Speaking to media following Mr Byrne’s resignation, policing board vice-chairman Edgar Jardine said Mr Byrne “always had the good and the welfare of his force at the forefront of his mind.”

He added that critical statements from Police Federation, and Nipsa, which represents civilian PSNI staff, had a “quite significant impact” on Mr Byrne’s decision.

The DUP last week submitted a motion of no-confidence in Mr Byrne to the board. Other unionist parties had called for the chief constable to resign, whereas other political parties raised questions about the PSNI leadership.

Reacting to the resignation, DUP party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said it was the “first step towards rebuilding confidence in the PSNI both inside and outside the organisation”.

“We welcome the decision by the chief constable to step down. It is the right thing to do following last week’s ruling by Mr Justice Schofield that the PSNI senior command unlawfully disciplined two of its own officers to appease Sinn Féin,” he said.

“The resignation of the chief constable is not an end in itself, but merely an opportunity to make a fresh start in rebuilding that lost confidence both inside and outside the PSNI. At a time when officers are holding the line amidst unprecedented budget cuts it was the minimum necessary to send a message that the organisation is listening to widely held concerns.”

Mr Kelly, for the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said Mr Byrne had “now done the right thing”.

“The Ormeau Rd judicial review and the shocking potential course of action following the policing board was the final straw for Mr Byrne. The ruling was damning, and his initial acceptance followed by a volte face around a potential legal appeal grievously undermined his credibility and authority to lead the PSNI. It called into question his judgment, decision-making abilities and made his position untenable.

“It is clear now that a full investigation is required into these matters to determine whether anyone else should be held to account for this fiasco for policing. This was an operational matter which should have been the exclusive responsibility of the service, free from political or external pressure or, indeed, interference.”

Mr Kelly said morale has “never been lower” in the service.

“There is a serious and worrying disconnect between those in leadership roles and the men and women from all community backgrounds who are the rank-and-file. Whoever succeeds Mr Byrne has a mountain to climb to address the cultural deficiencies, re-build confidence and restore credibility. The Police Federation stands ready to work collaboratively to assist in making that happen.”

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times