Safety fears for Catholic police officers in Northern Ireland
Following a data breach in August, which resulted in information on 9500 police officers and staff being disclosed online, Catholic constables are asking if they need to bring their personal firearms to mass.
Simon Byrne, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), resigned from his post on Monday. He had been criticised after a court ruling that he had unlawfully disciplined two junior officers. Mr Byrne was supposed to attend a session of parliament’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, whose members focused on the impact the data breach has had on “scared” and “horrified” PSNI officers and civilian staff.
Superintendent Gerry Murray, the chairperson of the Catholic Police Guild of Northern Ireland confirmed that he had advised officers to bring personal protection weapons with them when going to mass. “We have had officers resigning, going from the organisation. Our members are frightened, scared… have no idea what tomorrow will bring for them. I have incidents where young Catholic officers are asking me do they carry their personal protection weapon when they go to mass? The answer is yes, you do. The idea is that they should feel safe while entering the Catholic Church and also leaving the Catholic Church, and there’s no better way, the issue of the personal protection weapon is for that, for personal protection.”
Mr Murray added that the security risk combined with their budgetary restraints, would limit the PSNI’s future ability to recruit Catholic officers.
Liam Kelly, the chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said: “We are in a dark space. We are in a downward spiral. Despite it being 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, we are finding we are having to police against the backdrop of a severe terrorist threat.”