There have been many very memorable events in my policing career, but the 10 days of the World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) are a definite highlight.
I have received many letters and messages of support from local and international competitors, their friends and family members, colleagues and members of the public. Apart from the shameful disorder in Belfast last Friday evening, the Games should be celebrated as one of the most positive recent events in Northern Ireland's history.
I want to say, as Chair of the World Police and Fire Games Board, how much I and everyone taking part appreciated how the Northern Ireland public welcomed our visitors, embraced them and supported them. Many of them have spoken of their desire to come back again. In the words of Mike Graham, President of the World Police and Fire Games Federation, it truly was 'the friendliest and best Games ever'.
I have to pay tribute to the work of the WPFG Planning Team and of course to our patron Dame Mary Peters who has been such an amazing ambassador for the Games. You only had to listen and see the reception Dame Mary received everywhere she went, to understand why she was such a fantastic advocate for the Games.
I was delighted also to see how successful my Police Service of Northern Ireland colleagues and the other members of Team NI were. It was a great opportunity for members of the police, fire and prisons services to come together in sport instead of the often challenging professional circumstances that bring them together. Team NI netted a very commendable 54 Gold, 47 Silver and 40 Bronze medals, placing us 8th on the medal table out of 67.
I also had the pleasure of competing with a German colleague in the Indoor Mixed Rowing at the Waterfront Hall and whilst we didn't bring home a medal for Team NI, it was a fantastic experience and one which I will not forget. I have also developed many new international friendships.
We often talk about the 'legacy' of major events such as these Games but question what the actual benefit is in real terms. I have no doubt, based on my experiences of the past few weeks that the international reputation of Northern Ireland has been greatly enhanced as a place of welcome and beauty - A wonderful place that people want to come back to.
As a citizen of Northern Ireland, born and bred in the great City of Belfast, it saddens me that our worldwide reputation of warmly welcoming strangers, was jeopardised and in stark contrast to the naked sectarianism which culminated in the totally reprehensible violence and attacks on police officers last Friday.
Everyone must work together to ensure that there is no repetition of this violence. You can be assured that your police service will be playing its part in this regard.
Friday, 16 August 2013
Thursday, 18 July 2013
I had very much hoped that I would not be blogging about public disorder six days after the 12th July.
The role of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in policing sensitive parades is not to question or query the determinations of the Parades Commission but to uphold the rule of law, and to police the determinations proportionately and resolutely. Thankfully the severity of the disorder has reduced but every night since the 12th your Police Service, supported by colleagues who have joined us under mutual aid, have been faced with disorder to some degree.
Seventy one police officers have been injured, 3 of whom are from GB. Attacks on police officers are totally unacceptable and I thank those, from all quarters, who have publicly condemned these. Each of these attacks has a human cost to the officers and to their families and colleagues. A range of missiles, including blast bombs and 120 petrol bombs, have been used against police. We have arrested sixty eight people and I was appalled to be told that amongst these were a 12 and a 13 year old child - I appeal to parents to be responsible and know where their children are at all times, in particular late at night and during periods of disorder.
The courage and professionalism of the officers who have been engaged on the front line has been outstanding. There are those who have criticised the police tactics and in such cases where people feel a genuine sense of grievance, I would encourage them to report their complaint to the Police Ombudsman. However when people are stripping walls of coping stones, climbing onto landrovers and attempting to thrown these down onto the top of police officers it is entirely reasonable to take proportionate steps to protect life. Police officers have human rights too. You may have seen the police equipment we put on display to the media a few days ago which showed the damage to police helmets and shields.
I want to pay particular tribute to our GB colleagues who have assisted us under mutual aid arrangements. I have personally spoken , as has the Chief Constable, to many of them over the past week. They have in some respect been making history as they are the first ever deployment of mutual aid to Northern Ireland, apart from G8. They have worked alongside PSNI colleagues and their contribution has been outstanding. Ironically this is the first time many of them have been in Northern Ireland and the number who have said that, apart from the disorder, they have enjoyed a warm and sincere welcome and that they have been amazed by the beautiful countryside to the extent that they intend to come back and visit at some stage in the future.
Over the next few days, and in the run up to Saturday, I very much hope that tensions will reduce and that those of influence will re-double their efforts to ensure that the public disorder ends . I thank all those involved in working to reduce tensions in sensitive areas. This will help ensure that your police officers can return to their normal duties and concentrate on those issues which matter most to communities.
Public disorder will solve nothing and only serves to divide communities even further. We have all worked far too hard to allow this to happen.
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
I spent yesterday out and about, with the Chief Constable, in Fermanagh and Armagh to see for myself the various venues and get an idea of the scale of the G8 Summit and policing operation. Until you actually visit some of the venues it is hard to get a sense of the need for such a huge policing operation.
We also had the opportunity to talk to, and thank, many of the 3,600 colleagues who have come from policing services in Great Britain to support the operation.
There is no doubt that this is an unprecedented policing operation and on top of the safe delivery of the G8 Summit your police service also has to deliver on normal day to day policing business which will continue in the background.
I was very impressed by the way so many of my police and staff colleagues have worked together to deliver the infrastructure necessary for such a challenge. Their determination, resilience and professionalism has been truly outstanding. Much of the infrastructure is temporary, and has been put in place over the past few months, and the operation will continue for sometime after the Summit to dismantle this.
What I saw yesterday reinforced my sense of pride in a truly great organisation of amazing people. Many organisations plan for years to deliver an event of this scale but we have only had a few months to plan, prepare and deliver.
In an international event of this scale involving the world leaders, we have to accept a level of disruption. However, it is also a huge opportunity for Northern Ireland and for County Fermanagh in particular. We want this Summit to showcase the very best of Northern Ireland. For our part, we will certainly be doing everything we possibly can to minimise disruption and to make sure the world leaders, their delegations and the world’s media take away positive and lasting memories of their visit to Northern Ireland.
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Friday, 17 May 2013
Monday, 29 April 2013
I had the pleasure of revisiting one of my old schools last week. I had been invited to speak with a group of sixth formers, all of whom happened to be girls.
I had been invited by Eddie McCamley, my former history teacher. Although no longer teaching, he now spends his retirement assisting the school to connect with former pupils.
I'll not tell you exactly what year I left Belfast Royal Academy, but it was lovely to be back and as I walked through the school it brought back many old memories. Belfast Royal Academy is the oldest school in Belfast, established in 1785 in what is now the Academy Street area. It moved to its current site on the Cliftonville Road in 1880.
I had only been at the school up until 3rd year, as it was known then, but living at the time at the top of the New Lodge Road, during some of the most troubled years, it was a sanctuary for the many young people who went there. I noted the diversity of the school now, and it was great to see young people from a wide range of cultures and communities learning together in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect.
I was reminded of the day that there was trouble in the area and the Headmaster of the time personally walked my sister and I along the Antrim Road to make sure that we got home safely. I was more concerned about being seen under the escort of the Headmaster than being harmed by any trouble that was going on. On reflection I was very grateful to him for such care and consideration. It was perhaps an indication of a teacher's standing at that time that he could march us unscathed down the Cliftonville Road towards home.
I had been asked to share my career experiences with the group of girls and then to take some questions. It always amazes me how interested, informed and challenging a group like this can be. Their questions were refreshingly direct, frank, insightful and thoughtful.
One thing that was clear , there was an appetite amongst a number of them considering a career in policing. They were interested to hear more about when we will be recruiting, what the selection criteria would be and what was required during training. I was able to let them know that we would be seeking to recruit again in the near future.
They also asked about balancing a family life with a policing career and how I had coped with the various challenges over my 31 years policing experience. I was able to reassure them that despite all the challenges, past and present, I did try to live a relatively normal life outside of the day job.
It was lovely also to catch up afterwards with the Headmaster, Mr Dickson, and to share reflections on our school days. In this regard it is important that I pay tribute to those teachers who had such an important influence on me, both at Belfast Royal Academy and later at Regent House School, Newtownards in my formative years. We sometimes forget what an important and influential job teachers have, in particular those who work so hard across communities to bring children together in an atmosphere of understanding and mutual respect. Such early investments, I am convinced, can have long term rewards.
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
The sympathy of all right thinking people will be with the people of Boston at this time and in particular those who have lost family and friends and those who have been seriously injured.
The presence of so many cameras and 'live time' reporting brings the devastation, terror and tragedy of these attacks right into our living rooms.
It's only natural after such an horrific attack that people start to think about major sporting and other events which could become targets for similar acts of terror. The Metropolitan Police have been working hard to reassure competitors taking part in the London Marathon this week in relation to their security plans and of course we have our own Belfast Marathon coming up in just a few weeks time.
Sadly we are very used to planning major events in a style which fully considers the reality of a terror attack. All these events will be risk assessed and a proportionate policing operation put in place consistent with the risk. However, the possibility of an attack by terrorists is always a consideration not just on the event itself but on the police resources facilitating it. This is just a reality of policing Northern Ireland in the face of a severe terrorist threat.
I want to reassure you that over the next few months during the G8 Summit, World Police and Fire Games, UK City of Culture and other major events, we will be continuing to plan with contingencies in mind. We will also be working, in so far as is humanly possible, to ensure that competitors, spectators, officials, volunteers and police officers are safe and feel safe. Recent arrests and the recovery of firearms and explosives show our very clear determination to do so.
It is vitally important that we also have your support. You are our extra set of 'eyes and ears' as you go about your normal daily business and we rely on your support to keep people safe. I know this will not deter you from your plans to participate in sporting and other major events in the future, and your encouragement of those who have worked so hard to organise these fantastic spectacles is so important. I am sure that the people of Boston are as determined as ever to show that they will not be deterred by these attacks, just as we have shown in Northern Ireland that neither will we.