The chief of the PSNI police is under pressure to resign after proposing one of the most inhumane public control strategies of any Crown Force leader in the past 50 years, the removal and detention of innocent nationalist children.
Simon Byrne made the call as part of a debate on the increasing harassment of children in the North of Ireland under stop and search powers. He told the audience that “violent dissidents” were not fit to have custody of children and pledged to take them away as a “deterrent”.
He said: “You carry on doing this, we will have your house, if you keep going we will have your car, we will have your kids, we will have your benefits and we will put you in jail”.
He called for the involvement of social services, adding: “Why would I think you are safe in the presence of young children? So what safeguarding powers have we got to take your kids into care if that is a deterrent?”
Byrne arrived in Ireland two months ago, having previously served as chief of police in Cheshire, England, where he had been suspended due to allegations of gross misconduct. Despite rowing back on his threat later in the week, the proposal to effectively kidnap and hold to ransom the children of Irish republicans represents a despicable new low for British policing in Ireland.
It is only the latest of a number of highly combative and militaristic statements made by the new PSNI Chief. He described the PSNI as “match fit” for Brexit but that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. Last month he spoke of a need to use “paramilitary-style policing” after sending in riot police to attack youths and children involved in a nationalist bonfire.
Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly described the remarks as “disgraceful” and “unacceptable”.
“The safety and welfare of children must always be paramount, they can’t be used as pawns in a wider strategy,” he said.
“It flies in the face of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and all the evidence and current good practice within the criminal justice system concerning the safeguarding of children.”
Saoradh spokesman Dee Fennell said the comments demonstrated “a complete lack of understanding regarding the centuries-long conflict in Ireland”. He said Byrne sought to deprive the children of Republicans the right to a family life by having “armed stormtroopers detain them” and putting them “into care homes”. He said any attempt to normalise the PSNI (formerly the RUC) were “clearly over”.
Belfast IRSP spokesperson Ciaran Cunningham called for the new police chief to quit.
“Byrne’s words merely betray what principled Republicans already know, that the British state will and are, using all and any foul means to solidify normalisation and perpetual British rule in Ireland,” he said.
“While in recent times the PSNI have showed themselves willing to intern the fathers, here we see them propose internment for the children also. Needless to say all decent thinking Irish people will be appalled at the suggestion and will mobilise against such a prospect”.