The career of new PSNI chief constable George Hamilton came full-circle on Monday as he returned to Enniskillen, his first port of call as a police constable.
On his first day in the new job Mr Hamilton took the trip down the M1 to Enniskillen to visit former colleagues and speak about his plans for policing in Fermanagh.
“I started off here in 1985 and the old training centre was here in Enniskillen. I joined the police in August 85 and I did 14 weeks here. I was the penultimate intake through Enniskillen. Apart from the 18 mortars that came over the fence and ended the training here when I was a student it was great.”
After his training was complete Mr Hamilton then returned to Enniskillen as a probationary constable.
“I thought it would nice to come back to where it all started,” he explained, “plus I do think policing, because of the demand of Belfast becomes quite Belfast centric and I wanted to send a signal I was going to be leading people right across the organisation.”
During his interview the chief constable referred to a number of local issues, including tonight’s contentious Orange parade in Newtownbutler. Mr Hamilton said it was important to respect the views of both sides.
“Our job is to withhold the law and balance competing human rights so people who want to parade we have got a responsibility to uphold their right and people who want to protest we have got a responsibility to uphold theirs
“We don’t want to get in conflict with anybody, nobody is the enemy, we don’t want to be using force, all we want to see is dialogue, both between the police and the respective parties and actually between the respective parties themselves so that everybody can have their expression of their rights, however that presents itself either parading or protesting. I’m crystal clear about the role of police in parades and that’s the message I’m communicating to the commanders. The specifics of Friday night I’ll leave to the local people.”
The new chief conceded the dissident threat was credible, but stressed his confidence in the PSNI.
“The threat is at severe. There is no doubt that people opposed to peace, who want to use violent dissident republicanism as their ideology for doing that pose a credible threat to communities in Northern Ireland. Probably to be frank focused mainly towards police officers, prison officers and the like, but we have seen they will not be put off because the community are going to be harmed by their actions. I’m satisfied that our desire to keep people safe is much greater than their desire to do harm.”
Another issue discussed was that of rural crime, on the rise in the county. Mr Hamilton stressed that the key to dealing with this troublesome issue was partnership working and that increased resources would not solve the problem.
“If there were more resources then of course we would use them but that’s not a realistic proposition.”
He continued: “The solution to rural crime though isn’t just about more police officers, it’s about police engaging with communities, potential victims and working together to prevent people becoming victims in the first place.”
Mr Hamilton visits Fermanagh a couple of times a year and was delighted to return to one of his favourite parts of the country.
“I was just saying coming up in the car it just has that nice feel of it, it has a nice way of life, the people engage, it’s quite laid back in a positive sense and people don’t get excited about the silly things as they do in other quarters.”
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