SO the place is in a meltdown over Bobby Storey’s funeral again.
We have Arlene Foster calling for the Chief Constable to go. We have a respected commentator saying the whole Executive will have to come down. And we have the stoic Simon Byrne at a podium saying he is staying where he is, with the background predictable, unfailingly flawed narrative that the PSNI is “caught in the middle”.
Well, this time Arlene is right – but not for the reasons she thinks she is. Byrne is not caught in any “middle” and should go.
Simon Byrne’s position as Chief Constable has been fundamentally called into question in the context of dealing with the past. In recent months his response to the murder of a human rights solicitor and the response to the assault of a dignified and socially distanced memorial service and the subsequent arrest of Mark Sykes have placed him full square in the public eye. And his position with it. Or should have.
Following the appalling vista on the Ormeau Road Byrne asked to meet the families affected by the atrocity in which five people died and seven were injured. They said they would meet him if assured of the status of Mark Sykes, and that he was not under threat of prosecution.
The Chief Constable refused to give such an undertaking. He refused to say that Mark Sykes was not guilty of any offence on the day he was laying flowers at the Sean Grahams bookmakers and officers of the PSNI double-handcuffed him, drove him around Belfast in the back of a car for an hour and released him without charge. The families refuse to meet him with such mendacity hanging over their dignified heads.
Simon Byrne had in November reacted to the Secretary of State’s egregious response to the UK Supreme Court with eye blinking patheticness.
When Brandon Lewis made his statement to the House of Commons refusing a public inquiry and saying the PSNI would look into the killing, Byrne’s chop suey of a response was to try to be all things to all people. Ultimately, he sidestepped his human rights obligations to the Finucanes and the rest of us.
I feel sorry for everyone who stuck by the rules.— Arlene Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@DUPleader) March 30, 2021
Devastating outcome for public confidence in policing. There will be consequences.
I will be holding a press conference at 1530. https://t.co/zAIYyfBhpi
Byrne has said nothing about legacy since his installation. Unlike his predecessor. who championed the removal of legacy from the PSNI, Byrne is messing with it and making things worse for the grieving families.
And now along comes the DUP, annoyed at Bobby Storey’s funeral. Like the man in a middle-age crisis who cannot stand his job, or his disappointment at life and so shouts at the dog, the DUP is finding fault with everyone else rather than take responsibility for their own choices.
The DUP knows it messed up Brexit, and their position in Westminster, and are killing their “precious” union. Rather than look at the causes of that, they are sending blame everywhere else.
Sinn Féin are blamed for the DUP’s own dysfunction. Europe is to blame for Brexit. And now the Chief Constable as the ultimate red herring is substituting for the DUP having to share power, which they hate.
But just because the DUP is targeting the Chief Constable on this does not mean the Chief Constable is acceptable. Byrne should go, not for Bobby Storey’s funeral. but for his unrelenting humiliation of victims of our conflict.