Sinn Féin’s ‘grip on PSNI leadership must be broken’, Donaldson says

Former PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne resigned after string of controversies, including data breach

Sinn Féin’s “grip” on the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) leadership “must be broken”, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

Following a number of recent controversies, Mr Donaldson said that Sinn Féin’s word “should carry no more weight” with a chief constable than that of others.

“There can be no more cases where its ‘one rule for Sinn Féin and another rule for the rest of us’,” he said in a weekly message to party members.

Former PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne resigned earlier this month following a string of controversies, including the fallout from a data breach in which the names and details of all the force’s officers and staff members were mistakenly published online.


In addition, a High Court ruling said that two junior officers were unlawfully disciplined for an arrest made at a Troubles commemoration event in 2021. The judge said they had been disciplined to allay a threat that Sinn Féin could withdraw its support for policing. However, Sinn Féin has said there was no such threat.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton is assuming the responsibilities of the chief until a new leader of the PSNI is found. The recruitment process is expected to be completed in November.

In his latest message to party members, Mr Donaldson said the headlines about policing in recent weeks have been “the culmination of years where leadership in policing has been undermined”.

He said many people are “still furious” about the large crowds which turned out, including party leader Mary Lou McDonald and Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill, at the height of the Covid-19 restrictions for the funeral of senior republican Bobby Storey in June 2020. He said that the PSNI “failed to hold people in Sinn Féin accountable” for the scenes.

“Policing is about enforcing the law by pursuing those who engage in criminality and break the law,” the DUP leader said. “We ought all to be equal under the law. That is why the perception of two-tier policing is so corrosive to the fabric of democracy.

“If the rule of law is not being enforced without fear or favour, then a basic building block of our democratic society is giving way and eventually the whole structure will fall.”

Mr Donaldson said “Sinn Féin’s word should carry no more weight with the next chief constable than that of any other elected representative”.

“There can be no more cases where it’s ‘one rule for Sinn Féin and another rule for the rest of us.”

The DUP leader also urged that the next chief constable and senior command team must be policing focused, not politics focused, and opposed the reintroduction of 50/50 recruitment.

“Some within nationalism are campaigning night and day to have 50:50 recruitment restored. They want 50 per cent of recruits to be Roman Catholic in each recruitment round,” he said.

“We will oppose such a step. It would be a retrograde step. The only consideration in recruitment should be one’s ability to be a good police officer, not their religious background.” – PA