PFNI says UK Government doesn’t care about policing and local parties need to get back to work
The Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI), Liam Kelly, has criticised the UK Government and Secretary of State for being out of touch and not caring about policing.
Mr Kelly told the Federation’s Annual Conference that Chris Heaton-Harris had turned down an invitation to attend the event and also two requests for meetings to discuss the crisis facing policing in Northern Ireland.
Mr Kelly, in his keynote address to delegates, said: “His failure to meet, or even be here today, is testament to an out-of-touch Secretary of State who seemingly couldn’t care less…..or care about our policing service…..or care about you and your colleagues who do what you do every day of every week.
“When push comes to shove, it is clear that if the policing crisis doesn’t impact on Conservative seats, it doesn’t make it on to the political Richter scale.
“Why are we treated so shoddily? There are 20,000 additional officers in England and Wales but in Northern Ireland, we’re witnessing declining numbers.
“Unlike all other regions of the UK, our threat level here is set at ‘severe’. But we’re told we have to implement savage and unbearable cuts.”
Mr Kelly also criticised the track record of the Northern Ireland Executive prior to suspension.
Mr Kelly said: “Even when we had an Executive, it too failed to deliver on policing.
“We sought a three-year budget to give stability and allow for forward planning.
“It didn’t happen.
“We were promised an increase to 7,500 officers under New Decade, New Approach.
“It never materialised and now we could quickly end up with 6,000 officers. The track record of local Ministers is every bit as disappointing as their Westminster counterparts.
“Selective withdrawals from the Executive can no longer be tolerated. If that means going back to the drawing board to remove vetoes, then so be it.
“Northern Ireland cannot afford to be held back by this crude device.
“If there is a problem, sort it out across the table. Walking away isn’t the solution.
“We want real and effective Government. A realistic and effective three-year budget for the Service.
“An end to stop-start local government that results in our inability to maximise, locally, nationally and internationally, the promises, future and hope envisioned from the 1998 Agreement.
“In this, the 25th anniversary of the Agreement, prove to all of us that it was worth it by getting back to work and building the new Northern Ireland.
“There’s nothing further to be gained by continuing your squabbling. Letting the cobwebs take hold in Parliament Buildings and in all Government Departments will merely serve to further alienate and make people feel despondent.”
Elsewhere in his conference address, Mr Kelly extended best wishes to DCI John Caldwell and his family as he continues his recovery from a cowardly gun attack in Omagh in February.
Federation delegates also heard a prediction that the Service could shrink to 6,000 by the end of the financial year – its lowest figure since coming into being in 2001 – and a budget shortfall of some £120 million.
Mr Kelly focused on the introduction of time limits for discipline investigations and the rise in assaults on officers. He called for enhanced Personal Safety Training courses for front line officers; the wider roll-out of Taser and stiffer sentencing by the Courts.