PSNI not considering ‘all-island policing’, says North’s Chief Constable

Simon Byrne says wording in cross-Border policing report was ‘misunderstood’

The North's Chief Constable has defended a review of policing in South Armagh at a meeting of the Policing Board, saying he wanted to "calm some of the rhetoric" around its proposals.

He said wording within the report on cross-Border policing had been "misunderstood" and neither the review nor the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) "at any time has considered or envisaged all-island policing structures and joint day-to-day patrolling."

Simon Byrne had faced criticism from unionist politicians, as well as calls to resign from the DUP minister Gordon Lyons and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister following the publication of the 170-page report on Tuesday.

It made 50 recommendations aimed at addressing issues of “trust, confidence and the prevailing influence of the past” as well as the “style and tone” of policing in the area.


Unionist politicians are strongly opposed to recommendations regarding the relocation of police memorials and "joint rather than parallel policing operations" between the PSNI and An Garda Síochána which could enable cross-border "hot pursuit" between policing jurisdictions.

Speaking following a meeting with the Chief Constable later on Thursday, the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson stopped short of calling on Mr Byrne to resign but warned the controversy was the “latest in a series of events and incidents that have occurred that, in our view, have seriously undermined confidence, mainly in the unionist community.”

He said his party’s delegation had “made it clear to the Chief Constable we can’t continue like this” and the “drastic loss of confidence in policing, in the fairness and impartiality of policing” needed to be “addressed by the Chief Constable and he needs to consider urgently what that means for him and his senior management team.”

At a press conference after his appearance at the Policing Board earlier on Thursday the Chief Constable said he would not resign, stating that he did “not propose to stand aside from my commitment to make sure that policing across this country continues to improve.”

However, he said he was “not content with the fact that I have upset people, that was never my intention.”


Appearing before the accountability body on Thursday, Mr Byrne said he wanted to “take this opportunity to set the record straight on what was and what has not been agreed.”

Mr Byrne said the report published on Tuesday was the original document provided by the report’s authors. It was made public to ensure transparency around the initial recommendations even though some of the more controversial proposals, such as that around memorials, had been ruled out by senior officers.

"We are not removing memorials and never have been," he said. Where memorials had to be relocated due to the closure of a police station, this would be "handled properly and with sensitivity, with full consultation with the families of those who were murdered delivering policing in South Armagh.

“Far from disrespecting or forgetting our 30 colleagues [in South Armagh] who paid the ultimate price, I think we can do better than what we currently have in place, and over the horizon plans for a new police museum may reflect this,” Mr Byrne said.

On cross-Border policing, the Chief Constable said that “what was envisaged was modelled on established local structures” and the proposal was for this to be “adapted to everyday crime prevention.”

Accountability structures, he said, “infer nothing more than better collaboration and consistency at a local level on shared and mutually agreed operational priorities.”

The idea of “hot pursuit” was proposed “in limited and carefully defined circumstances” and in any case would require “governmental and wider political support to take forward,” he said.

By “joint” policing operations, he emphasised, “we do not mean a police officer from here working in another country, nor do we mean a police officer from the Republic working here.”

The chair of the Policing Board, Doug Garrett, said the board members had agreed to write to the Chief Constable to obtain details of which proposals are to be taken forward and the timescale, which members will then scrutinise.

The DUP Policing Board member Thomas Buchanan questioned why Mr Byrne had not provided this clarification earlier, saying that this "would have eased a lot of tension and concern within the unionist community, which also caused further diminishing of the support for the police at the top level."

Mike Nesbitt of the Ulster Unionist Party said there was no doubt there had to be a "step change" in how policing was delivered in the area and said it was "deeply regrettable" that the conversation had instead focused on the controversy around memorials.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times