Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Chief Constable apologises for Crossmaglen Christmas Day tweet

Chief Constable of the PSNI, Simon Byrne, has apologized for a tweet he posted on social media from Crossmaglen on Christmas Day stating he is “sorry for any offence that has been caused”.

Mr Byrne had posted a photograph taken during his visit to the town’s police station in which he posed with a number of heavily armed officers alongside the message: “On Christmas morning great to meet the team policing Crossmaglen @psninmdown. I take my hat off to colleagues policing such a unique part of @policeserviceni. Their sense of duty & optimism is inspiring. Stay safe and thank you”.

There was widespread reaction to the post, which some referred to as a “PR disaster”, inappropriate and offensive.

The chief constable was immediately challenged by local politicians who voiced their objection and insisted on meeting with him to discuss the issue.

On Tuesday last, SDLP Councillor Pete Byrne and his party colleague Dolores Kelly MLA, met with Mr Byrne and afterwards the chief constable issued a statement saying his message was “never meant as a comment on the community of Crossmaglen and South Armagh”.

“I am sorry for any offence that has been caused,” he said.  “I have reflected on the issue at length and have had many conversations with both colleagues and external stakeholders, up to and including a number of meetings with elected representatives.

“I am really proud of the local officers who, working together with local people, have made so much progress for policing and the community in recent years.  It is only by working together that we will continue to make progress.”

SDLP Councillor Pete Byrne and party spokesperson on policing, Dolores Kelly, met with Chief Constable Simon Byrne on Tuesday.

After the meeting, Councillor Pete Byrne said: “I, along with SDLP Policing Spokesperson, Dolores Kelly MLA, very much welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Chief Constable and discuss his offensive social media post about Crossmaglen. He was clear that he apologised if he caused any offence to the local community and assured me it was not his intention to do so. He accepted that it was ill judged. We had a frank conversation about the importance of language and nuance.”

“We discussed the positive work that has been achieved in policing in South Armagh in recent years, citing the co-operation between the PSNI and Crossmaglen Community First Responders as an example. The Chief Constable also accepted my invitation to join me in Crossmaglen for further engagement and I look forward to that in the coming months.

“I also took the opportunity to raise wider policing issues in South Armagh, including the worrying upsurge in the amount of burglaries in the Camlough and Bessbrook areas. I stressed my view that the local response had been poor and needed more attention.”

 SDLP Policing Spokesperson, Dolores Kelly MLA added: “We had a robust discussion around the challenges of the style and appearance of militarised stations in Crossmaglen and Newtownhamilton. We discussed the slow pace of of transformation, the legacy of policing for communities like South Armagh and the ongoing cultural work that needed to take place within the PSNI. We were in agreement that this has to change and I look forward to hearing the proposals coming forward from the PSNI in partnership with the community of Crossmaglen.”