Policeman’s multi-lingual New Year message causes ‘ridiculous’ controversy

January 6, 2014

A  Newry based police officer who posted a multi-lingual New Year message on the PSNI Newry and Mourne Facebook page found himself at the  centre of unforeseen controversy last week after his post sparked offence among some Ulster-Scots who claimed to feel excluded from his multi-lingual greeting!

The row erupted after the unnamed officer posted the message on official Facebook and Twitter accounts at around 10.30pm on New Year’s Eve.  Wishing the residents of Newry and Mourne a happy, healthy and safe New Year from their local police, the post also included a New Year’s message in Irish, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian.

The officer also posted as a collage, images from Ardmore PSNI station in Newry which he had spent his lunch hour compiling.

Many commended the policeman for his efforts and soon the New Year message had received almost 100 ‘likes’ on Facebook.

However, not everyone was happy with the seemingly innocent post with some voicing their anger that an Ulster-Scots greeting had not been issued  and others offended by the use of the Irish language.

One Facebook user raged: “Why can’t you just speak in English? once again trying 2 make it a cold house 4 loyalists.”

Criticism was also mounting on Twitter where one user took particular offence, accusing the PSNI of “bowing to their Sinn Fein masters.” The angry tweeter added, “to get respect you must first earn it, the RUC earned it long ago, these cowboys can’t compete, useless!”

Victims’ campaigner Manya Dickinson, whose father Kenneth Graham was killed by the IRA also took to Twitter to query the officer’s post, asking, “why the irish?? I don’t think u serve in the south???”

The unforeseen furore took a farcical turn when the officer revealed one individual had demanded his official number as they intended to report him to the Police Ombudsman!

In an apology later posted by the PSNI officer, he explained that the languages used reflected the languages officers had heard in the area that year, and stressed “there is nothing political about this page or myself.”

“Folks I hold my hands up and apologise in relation to my last post. It appears I have offended some folk by posting a New Year wish in various languages,” he wrote,

“I included these languages as there is such a diverse community in Newry & Mourne. I used languages that I personally have come across folk that have spoken to me in those languages.

“I’ll be honest, I used Google to translate them! I did not include Ulster Scots as I have neither been spoken to in it nor did Google allow me to translate to it. If I have offended you I apologise.

“To you all, regardless of background, I personally wish you a Happy New Year.”

Ulster Unionist MLA and Policing Board member Ross Hussey slammed the threat of a complaint to the Police Ombudsman over the matter as “absolutely ridiculous”.

“That makes a nonsense of the Police Ombudsman, if someone is going report a genuine oversight because someone didn’t say Happy New Year in Ulster Scots,” said the former part-time RUC Reservist.

“It really is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.

“The officer was clearly acting in good faith, and inadvertently overlooked it.”

A PSNI spokesman said it would not be issuing any further comment on the matter other than what had been posted on the Facebook page.