PSNI Chief Constable designate outlines his policing vision

Role is about keeping people safe ‘ by preventing harm and protecting people’

PSNI chief constable designate George Hamilton has been warned that the "fun's over now" ahead of him taking on his responsibilities.

At the end of an introductory press conference by the 46-year-old married father of four from Bangor, Co Down, was congratulated by Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly who added: "The fun's over now George"

Mr Hamilton, an assistant chief constable responsible for rural district who will replace Matt Baggott sometime this summer, was a below-the-radar officer.

But, as Ms Connolly implied, in the face of the dissident threat - underlined by a bombing at the Everglades Hotel in Derry yesterday on the day he was appointed - and the onrushing marching season, he is on the frontline now.

But he delivered an assured performance to the media at the Policing Board press conference without giving much away about himself, not even divulging if there were any football team he supported or hobbies he enjoyed.

“With four teenage children and a job like this there is not a great deal of time for anything else. But I do enjoy family life and I enjoy whatever element of privacy I can get and I hope to cherish that into the future,” he said, justifiably seeking to establish a wall between personal matters and policing.

His is a non-rocket science vision of policing: “I see my role as hugely challenging but also straightforward. It is about keeping people safe, endeavouring to do that by preventing harm and protecting people, especially vulnerable people, and bringing those responsible for breaking the law to justice.”

As for the dissidents and the Everglades bombing and such challenges he said, “There are people who are opposed to peace. There are people who are trying to use violence, who are damaging the economic well-being of the country, who are taking jobs of people.

“They don’t actually care about this place or the citizens of it - I do deeply. We will be doing everything in our power possible to prevent occurrences like that and where they do occur we will be doing everything possible to bring those responsible to justice.”

As for flags, the past and parading he hoped politicians would make progress in these areas. "I like anyone else who has got a stake, who cares passionately about Northern Ireland would like to see a resolution to that. We need to allow the politicians to get on with that," he said.

The PSNI would work to try and find a resolution.

On public order he said the challenge was to “uphold the law” while “balancing competing human rights”.

“The human rights framework will be right at the centre of my leadership of this organisation. As we go into another marching season that will be the focus.”

Relations at senior level between the Garda and PSNI have been somewhat strained because of the fallout from the Smithwick tribunal into allegations of Garda collusion.

Mr Hamilton, without direct reference to that difficulty, emphasised that he enjoyed a strong bond with the Garda in terms of tackling dissidents, rural and organised crime and human trafficking.

“I would like to see that relationship develop further and I think it is in a good place already,” he said.

And as plans continue to appoint a new Garda Commissioner, the chairwoman of the Policing Board said the Northern Ireland system for appointing the chief constable and other senior officers was the best model “on these islands”.

She said this was confirmed by three external assessors who had overseen the interview process which involved nine members of the 19-member Policing Board.

The two unsuccessful candidates for the £195,000 per annum (€239,866) post were Garda assistant commissioner Derek Byrne and Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Cressida Dick, both of whom performed strongly, said Ms Connolly.

On the interview panel were independent, DUP, SDLP, Ulster Unionist and Sinn Fein board members.

It was viewed as significant that Sinn Fein panel member Gerry Kelly not only supported the appointment of Mr Hamilton, who joined as an RUC officer in 1985, but that publicly he agreed he was the best candidate for the job.

Those appointing the next Garda Commissioner might also be interested in the fact that the three candidates did psychometric testing ahead of the interview to check their aptitude and ability to cope under pressure.

Said Ms Connolly: “We had a very democratic, robust process; we had a very tight process; we had a long process and our three external advisors said they had not seen a process like it anywhere else.”