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PSNI chief sorry for Christmas Day photo with armed officers in Crossmaglen

The photo, which Simon Byrne posted on Twitter, attracted considerable criticism.

PSNI Chief Constable posed with armed officers on Christmas Day in Crossmaglen.
PSNI Chief Constable posed with armed officers on Christmas Day in Crossmaglen.
Image: PSNI

PSNI CHIEF SIMON Byrne has apologised for a controversial post on Twitter on Christmas Day, which showed him posing alongside machine-gun-armed officers outside a police station in Crossmaglen.

Byrne, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, had tweeted a photo that showed him alongside officers stationed in the Armagh village. 

Two of the officers standing beside Byrne were armed with machine guns. 

“On Christmas morning great to meet the team policing Crossmaglen,” he wrote. 

The tweet prompted criticism at the time, with both Sinn Féin and the SDLP taking issue with the photo and what it seemed to say about Crossmaglen, which was a major republican stronghold during the Troubles.

In a statement, Byrne apologised and said that he was “sorry for any offence that has been caused”. 

He said that the tweet was never meant as a comment on Crossmaglen or the south Armagh area. 

Since taking up the post of Chief Constable, I have been looking at the visibility, accessibility and responsiveness of policing right across Northern Ireland. As part of that ongoing work, I have commissioned a review of policing in South Armagh. 

Byrne said that the review will involve local PSNI officers, elected representatives and the wider community. 

“I am really proud of the local officers, who working together with local people, have made so much progress for policing and the community in recent years. It is only by working together that we will continue to make progress,” he said.

Yesterday, SDLP representatives met with the chief constable to discuss the Christmas Day tweet. 

“He was clear that he apologised if he caused any offence to the local community and assured me it was not his intention to do so. He accepted that it was ill judged. We had a frank conversation about the importance of language and nuance,” SDLP councillor Peter Byrne said. 

Byrne, who is from the Crossmaglen area, had sought a meeting on St Stephen’s Day with the chief constable in response to the tweet. 

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Byrne said that the “positive” work of the PSNI in South Armagh was also discussed and that the chief constable had promised to join him in Crossmaglen for “further engagement” in the coming months. 

The party’s policing spokesperson, Dolores Kelly, said that they had discussed “the slow pace of of transformation, the legacy of policing for communities like South Armagh and the ongoing cultural work that needed to take place within the PSNI”.

“We were in agreement that this has to change,” she said. 

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