Northern Ireland

Matt Baggott rejects Sinn Féin police arrest claims

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Media captionMatt Baggott said the accusation of a "dark side" within the PSNI was one he refuted

Northern Ireland's chief constable has rejected allegations by Sinn Féin that the arrest of Gerry Adams was the work of a "dark side" within the PSNI.

Matt Baggott said questioning the motivation or impartiality of the police was "unfair" and "inappropriate".

Mr Adams was questioned over the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, but was released without charge.

Sinn Féin claimed his arrest had been "politically motivated".

Last week, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness claimed there was a "dark side" and a "cabal" within the PSNI opposed to the party and Sinn Féin.

The Sinn Féin leader was arrested on Wednesday and questioned over five days about the murder of Mrs McConville.

Denial

The Belfast mother of 10 was abducted, killed and secretly buried by the IRA in 1972.

The Sinn Féin leader, who has always denied involvement in the murder, was released without charge on Sunday evening and a file is being sent to the Public Prosecution Service.

Shortly after his release without charge on Sunday, Mr Adams said he supported the PSNI.

But he criticised the decision to arrest and question him, describing it as the old guard using old methods, and those involved as "enemies of the peace process".

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Baggott said the accusation of a "dark side" within the PSNI was one he refuted.

"Under the Patten architecture, to which all political parties have signed up, there are numerous ways in which policing concerns can be addressed, notably through the independent Police Ombudsman, Policing Board or Human Rights Commissioner," he said.

"As such, questioning the motivation or impartiality of police officers tasked with investigating serious crime in this very public, generalised and vague manner, is both unfair and inappropriate."

The chief constable said the arrest and questioning of Gerry Adams was "legitimate and lawful", and that an independent judge subsequently decided that there were grounds for further detention.

He said it would have been wrong to treat the Sinn Féin leader any differently to other citizens.

"In a democracy the police are tasked with following the evidence without fear or favour and in accordance with the law. The PSNI are committed to doing so regardless of any undue pressures," he added.

Image copyright Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker
Image caption DUP leader Peter Robinson called on Martin McGuinness to clarify his views on policing after the Sinn Féin MLA made allegations about some senior police officers over Gerry Adams' arrest

Review

Earlier on Tuesday, Northern Ireland's first minister said his party would have tried to exclude Sinn Féin from government if it had not "corrected" its support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin had criticised police over the arrest of their party leader Gerry Adams and hinted they would review their support if he was charged.

Mr Robinson, who leads the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said if Sinn Féin had withdrawn its support, his party would have brought an exclusion motion before the assembly.

Any motion to exclude Sinn Féin would require cross-party support.

Mr Robinson also questioned whether the deputy first minister, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, had breached his pledge of office, which requires support for the police.

On Friday, while Mr Adams was still in custody, Mr McGuinness hinted that Sinn Féin might look again at whether it would continue to support the PSNI.

Image caption Last week, Martin McGuinness said there was a "dark side" within the Police Service of Northern Ireland after detectives arrested his party leader Gerry Adams over a 1972 murder

The party claimed the arrest was politically motivated and deliberately timed in order to influence the outcome of elections in three weeks' time.

'Dark side'

The DUP leader called on Mr McGuinness to clarify his views after the Sinn Féin MLA made allegations about some senior police officers.

Both Prime Minister David Cameron and the PSNI denied that there was any political interference in the murder investigation.

Mr Robinson said he was seeking a meeting with Northern Ireland's Chief Constable Matt Baggott following reports that Mr Adams is unlikely to be charged.

The first minister also said he intended to meet with members of Jean McConville's family after her son, Michael, indicated he would welcome such a meeting.

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy rejected Mr Robinson's comments about excluding his party.

"It is clear that there are those within the leadership of the DUP who would love a return to the days of one-party unionist rule," he said.

"That is simply not going to happen. There is no going back.

"The people of the North voted for the Good Friday Agreement and government which is inclusive of all our people and Sinn Féin won't allow the DUP to turn the clock back."

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