Policing issues provoke controversy

Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan has defended herself after a fierce attack by the chairman of the North’s Police Federation, Irwin Montgomery, who said she did not enjoy the confidence of the PSNI and that if she retires as scheduled next year she should be replaced by a senior judge.

“What is he afraid of?” responded Mrs O’Loan.

Mr Montgomery, head of the representative body for PSNI police officers, portrayed Mrs O’Loan as a publicity-seeking official who had damaged police morale, who pressed ahead with high profile damaging and “disastrous” cases against police officers, and who should not be pursuing historic cases.

Mrs O’Loan accused Mr Montgomery of expressing “concern for the difficulties of police officers under investigation, but no concern at all for members of the public under investigation”.

She added: “More critically, he believes the person with responsibility for public complaints against the police should have far less time in office than police officers, far less powers than the police, and in particular, far less powers to look into incidents from the past than the police. What he is afraid of?”

Meanwhile, another controversy has broken out over the DUP’s attitude to membership of ex-prisoners in the PSNI.

In an interview, the DUP’s Gregory Campbell was asked if ex-prisoners who were members of the DUP could become members of the PSNI. In response, Campbell said they would have to show they did not advocate “criminality”. If they did, he said, they could be considered for membership of the police.

The comments indicated his support for unionist paramilitaries joining the PSNI, but not republicans.

Fred Cobain, a UUP member of the Policing Board, said he was astounded and demanded to know if it included members of the IRA.

Later, Mr Campbell’s own party made it clear that it does not support ex-prisoners “with paramilitary convictions for murder or other serious offences” joining the police.

Sinn Féin’s Philip McGuigan said the DUP was guilty of double standards.

“On one hand the DUP have tried to create the myth that they have no relationship whatever with unionist paramilitaries. This of course flies in the face of all of the evidence stretching over 30 years and more. The reality is of course that the DUP have long had a relationship with unionist paramilitaries and were publicly involved in the formation of Ulster Resistance, an organisation which went on to import tonnes of weapons to the six counties to murder Catholics.

“The individual convicted of murdering my party colleague Malachy Carey in Ballymoney in 1992, Gary Blair, is currently a leading DUP figure in Ian Paisley’s constituency and has indeed led a campaign to see those jailed for the LVF sectarian double murder in Poyntzpass released. It has also recently emerged that former DUP Councillor and Assembly member George Seawright was a member of the UVF.”

Mr McGuigan said “the hypocrisy is there for all to see” in Campbell’s comments.

“On this issue like almost every other issue involving unionist paramilitary gangs the DUP are once again all over the place, attempting to talk out of both sides of their mouths.”

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© 2006 Irish Republican News