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NI first minister tells former Cheshire Police chief to resign

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Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster has asked PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne to resign.

It follows criticism of the force’s handling of a funeral in June 2020 which attracted around 2,000 mourners at a time when Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Mrs Foster said: “The position of the chief constable is now untenable and I am calling on him to resign. Sadly, it is now clear confidence cannot be rebuilt with him in post.”

She went on to say: “Hundreds lined the streets dressed in white shirts and black ties and attended a political rally in Milltown Cemetery when the limit on public gatherings was 30.”

Foster told reporters she believed there was a crisis of confidence in policing in Northern Ireland.

The funeral is seen as particularly controversial because it was attended by a number of senior Sinn Féin politicians, with Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill among them.

As a result, the event caused a political furore and this has only been added to with the announcement that there will be no prosecutions in relation to it.

According to BBC News, Mrs Foster said she telephoned Mr Byrne and told him to resign.

The BBC reports that Foster regretted Byrne’s decision not to do so, and that she would be speaking to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis regarding the situation.

Mr Byrne was formerly chief constable of Cheshire Police, but was effectively forced out of the role when his contract expired partway through a misconduct hearing.

He held the role of chief constable in Cheshire between 2014-2017. 

Mr Byrne was cleared of misconduct, including allegations of bullying, and the panel said of the hearing: “Our overriding conclusion is that it could – and should – have been avoided.”

Upon being exonerated, Mr Byrne said: “In some ways, it still feels like upside down justice as I have lost my vocation after 35 years of public service.”

He went on to take the top job in Northern Ireland in June 2019.

 

 

 

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