Newry.ie
Write a comment
Pin It

Todays South Armagh Policing Review has been broadly welcomed by local political representatives. The review follows a meeting between the SDLP and Sinn Fein in early 2020 in the aftermath of a social media post put out by PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne with a group of heavily armed police in Crossmaglen on Christmas Day.

Far Reaching

Slieve Gullion Councillor Pete Byrne has welcomed the review 

Following the now infamous Christmas Day tweet in 2019, the SDLP and I have engaged extensively with the PSNI to try and change their perception of Crossmaglen, South Armagh and its people. This led to the Chief Constable launching a review into how policing is conducted in the area, which after a long period of internal review has finally been published today. I am impressed at how far reaching and significant some of recommendations will be to people in South Armagh. We engaged in this process in good faith, expending both time and effort through our community groups alongside honest political engagement to get this point. It is clear that engagement has been recognised and now forms the basis for the recommendations for change to policing in South Armagh.

Cllr Pete Byrne

Over a 3-5 year period, the review puts forward 50 recommendations ranging from local policing style and responsiveness to community and cross border engagement. Some immediate recommendations have already been successfully implemented over the last few months, with clear lines of communication established between police and elected representatives. In addition, we have seen the move to the new Neighbourhood Policing model which shows a clear desire to develop community relationships and indicates there’s an urgency on both sides to implement all the recommendations outlined today. A task that must be realised in its entirety, as we cannot have a repeat of the failures of the past where many of the 175 recommendations outlined in the Patten Report have remained aspirations for more than 20 years. The recommendations back then aren’t far of the ones in front of us today, but we have a to do list now that is tailored to South Armagh alone and we must seize this opportunity for change.

The recommendation to close Crossmaglen Police Station is historic and we can’t understate what this will mean to people in the town. Crossmaglen has been at peace with itself for considerable amount of time now but the police station remains the last visual reminder of British oppression and contributed to a perception that people here want to change. There are also recommendations regarding Newtownhamilton Police Station including an aesthetic replacement of its external security fencing and the opening of the square to parking and two-way traffic flow.

Since this process began, I consistently highlighted the institutionalised perception that the PSNI have about South Armagh and our people. I am pleased that the report acknowledges this perception and goes as far as stating that people in South Armagh were treated with suspicion which led to negative organisational behaviours and to the heavy-handed tweet in 2019. It is now abundantly clear that it is the police structures that created the barriers to progress and not the local community. The removal of the G36 assault rifles as a routine piece of equipment is key to moving forward along with the recommendation to resource police officers in relation to the issue being dealt with rather than the history of the area.

I look forward to engaging with the Chief Constable and the local policing team in the weeks and months ahead to ensure the momentum for change continues. We now have a real opportunity to right the wrongs of the past by implementing all 50 recommendations in a timely manner. Over the last year we have seen how organisations can quickly adapt and change. The community in South Armagh are ready for change and look forward to the positive future this review envisages.

Cllr Byrne said "Following the now infamous Christmas Day tweet in 2019, the SDLP and I have engaged extensively with the PSNI to try and change their perception of Crossmaglen, South Armagh and its people. This led to the Chief Constable launching a review into how policing is conducted in the area, which after a long period of internal review has finally been published today. I am impressed at how far reaching and significant some of recommendations will be to people in South Armagh. We engaged in this process in good faith, expending both time and effort through our community groups alongside honest political engagement to get this point. It is clear that engagement has been recognised and now forms the basis for the recommendations for change to policing in South Armagh.

"Over a 3-5 year period, the review puts forward 50 recommendations ranging from local policing style and responsiveness to community and cross border engagement. Some immediate recommendations have already been successfully implemented over the last few months, with clear lines of communication established between police and elected representatives. In addition, we have seen the move to the new Neighbourhood Policing model which shows a clear desire to develop community relationships and indicates there’s an urgency on both sides to implement all the recommendations outlined today. A task that must be realised in its entirety, as we cannot have a repeat of the failures of the past where many of the 175 recommendations outlined in the Patten Report have remained aspirations for more than 20 years. The recommendations back then aren’t far of the ones in front of us today, but we have a to do list now that is tailored to South Armagh alone and we must seize this opportunity for change."

Speaking about Crossmaglen Police Station which is earmarked for closure Cllr Byrne said "The recommendation to close Crossmaglen Police Station is historic and we can’t understate what this will mean to people in the town. Crossmaglen has been at peace with itself for considerable amount of time now but the police station remains the last visual reminder of British oppression and contributed to a perception that people here want to change. There are also recommendations regarding Newtownhamilton Police Station including an aesthetic replacement of its external security fencing and the opening of the square to parking and two-way traffic flow.

"Since this process began, I consistently highlighted the institutionalised perception that the PSNI have about South Armagh and our people. I am pleased that the report acknowledges this perception and goes as far as stating that people in South Armagh were treated with suspicion which led to negative organisational behaviours and to the heavy-handed tweet in 2019. It is now abundantly clear that it is the police structures that created the barriers to progress and not the local community. The removal of the G36 assault rifles as a routine piece of equipment is key to moving forward along with the recommendation to resource police officers in relation to the issue being dealt with rather than the history of the area."

Cllr Byrne is looking forward to engaging with the Chief Constable and the local policing team in the weeks and months ahead to ensure the momentum for change continues. "We now have a real opportunity to right the wrongs of the past by implementing all 50 recommendations in a timely manner. Over the last year we have seen how organisations can quickly adapt and change. The community in South Armagh are ready for change and look forward to the positive future this review envisages." Byrne concluded.

A New Beginning

Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy has also welcomed the report and said if implemented it can lead to a ‘new beginning’ to policing in the area.

Conor Murphy MLA

The MLA said “The launch of a report into policing in South Armagh today is a huge development for the people of the area and if properly implemented, can finally deliver real policing with the community.

“Some of 50 recommendations in the report include the closure of a militaristic barracks in Crossmaglen, the removal of assault rifles on routine patrols and Irish signage on police stations.

Murphy points out that the report also recommends setting up an Independent Advisory Group and he plans to explore in greater detail its remit, powers and who will be represented on it.  

Concluding he added “All of these recommendations can begin to change the image of policing in South Armagh by removing the negative, militaristic style of the past which has damaged community relations.

“This report must lead to a new beginning for policing in this area to rebuild the trust and confidence of the local community. Sinn Féin is committed to working with everyone to ensure that our policing service is fit for purpose.”

Is there any need for a police officer to be armed with a G36 Assault Rifle while attending an RTC?

Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty has described the review as ‘a step in the right direction’

The MLA commented,"My view is that the recommendations contained within the report are both long overdue and sorely needed. There has been a misconception for very many years now that South Armagh is somehow a world apart from other parts of the North in the context of policing –  this has been evidenced by PSNI’s tone of engagement with the local community, and was typified by the ham-fisted Christmas Day photo shared by the Chief Constable in 2019.

"Undoubtedly, many will be fixated on the provision of the report which recommends that police become more circumspect with their use of assault weapons, and I believe that some regressive voices from outside of the area are sowing the seeds of mistrust and doubt in that regard, but you really have to ask yourself – is there any need for a police officer to be armed with a G36 Assault Rifle while attending an RTC?

Justin McNulty MLA

McNulty continued "A key component within the review has been the recommendation to close Crossmaglen Police Station and to take action to normalise the station at Newtownhamilton. These steps are as pragmatic as they are symbolic – the landscape in South Armagh has changed dramatically in recent times; it’s a very different place to what it was 30 years ago, so I very much welcome the fact that we have agreement from police that their operational footprint in South Armagh will reflect that new landscape. 

"The provision in the report which, in my view, deserves most adulation is the commitment to transition towards community and neighbourhood policing, with visible patrolling on foot and bicycle. The police have pledged to build legitimacy and confidence in policing through increased investment, and engagement has been identified as an integral aspect of all operational policing activity going forward – this signals a new era in South Armagh Policing, and offers police an opportunity to step out of the legacy of heavy-handedness and redefine themselves as an organisation which polices in partnership with the community.

The MLA concluded "Simply put, the recommendations contained within the South Armagh Policing Review have the potential to usher in a new era of contemporary policing, one defined by co-operation, and delivered in partnership with local communities."

Significant Concern

Although there was a broad welcome to the proposals contained in the report, not all local representatives agreed. Slieve Gullion Councillor, Cllr David Taylor spoke of his concerns on some aspects of the report. Cllr Taylor said "A number of aspects of the South Armagh Policing Report cause me significant concern and it is unfortunate that some of the recommendations appear to be political in nature rather than serving any strategic benefit to policing in the local area. I will be engaging with the Senior Police Command alongside Party colleagues on these proposals over the coming period and will outline clearly our concerns and opinions on the details included in this report"

Read the report at WWW.PSNI.POLICE.UK

Say something here...
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.

Be the first to comment.

DONATE TO NEWRY.IE

Please consider supporting Newry.ie

Amount
Newry.ie require Cookies on some parts of our site to enable full functionality. By using Newry.ie you consent to our use of Cookies. You can use your browser settings to disable cookies on this or any other website.