N. Ireland Politics

Sinn Féin attacked for police stance by SDLP's McNulty

Gerry Kelly and Justin McNulty
Image caption Gerry Kelly rejected the suggestion that there was "too much ambiguity" around Sinn Féin statements saying "no one should be marginalised" for joining the PSNI

Sinn Féin must do more to encourage nationalists to join the police, an SDLP MLA and former GAA All-Ireland winner has said.

Justin McNulty claimed there was too much ambiguity in Sinn Féin's statements that "no one should be marginalised" for joining the PSNI.

But Sinn Féin's policing spokesman rejected the accusation.

Gerry Kelly rejected the ambiguity claim, saying he had supported young people thinking about joining the PSNI.

A former vice-chairman of the Policing Board said clearer support for the police was needed from the Catholic Church and the Irish government, as well as Sinn Féin.

The issue came to the fore after a former police officer who was seriously injured by a dissident republican bomb spoke of the hurt he feels towards his former Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club.

Peadar Heffron made the comments in an interview with GAA pundit Joe Brolly, published in the Sunday Independent.

'Disgusted'

"GAA rank & file are as disgusted about what happened to Peadar Heffron as I am," Mr McNulty told the BBC NI's The View programme.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Peadar Heffron was captain of the PSNI's Gaelic football team

"The GAA has shown leadership from the start, along with the SDLP and Catholic Church, in coming on board and supporting policing.

"There is an unwritten rule in the GAA, which is part of my experience, that you leave your politics at the door.

"Young Irishmen and woman who join the Garda are Irish police. Young Irishmen and women who join the PSNI are Irish police," he added.

"They should be admired by the community for the service they provide."

Mr Kelly countered that he had offered people considering joining the PSNI "encouragement" and "any help they need".

"I don't know where the ambiguity is," he said. "They are Irish people in an Irish police service.

"I was challenge you to point to any time where I've been on the media that I haven't condemned, not only attacks on police but on dissident activity entirely.

"There's no ambiguity at all."

Denis Bradley, a former vice-chairman of the Policing Board, said clearer support for the police was needed from key voices within nationalism.

"I need to hear very strong voices coming from the Catholic Church, Sinn Féin and the Irish government that they are 100%... behind this," he told The View.

"That makes my decision to join policing much more comfortable for me - and for my family."

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