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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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PSNI chief moves to clarify 'we will have your kids' threat to paramilitaries

Byrne said he accepted his enthusiasm to speak in soundbites had created a distraction.

PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne.
PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne.
Image: David Young

SIMON BYRNE, THE recently-appointed new chief constable of the PSNI, has moved to clarify his controversial remarks yesterday about police taking the children of paramilitaries. 

Speaking at a conference on stop and search powers, Byrne said yesterday that people involved in paramilitary shootings were not fit to have custody of children, and pledged to target them. 

He said: 

My message to them is ‘you carry on doing this, we will have your house, if you keep going we will have your car, we will have your kids, we will have your benefits and we will put you in jail’.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly described the remarks as unacceptable, saying they flew in the face “of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and all the evidence and current good practice within the criminal justice system concerning the safeguarding of children”. 

Addressing the fallout from those remarks today at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Byrne noted in his opening comments that the statement yesterday “attracted a lot of interest”.

He said he needed to put those remarks into context and that the last thing he wanted was for a narrative to develop that “distracted from what we were trying to do”. 

His comment about children appeared to have hit a raw nerve in some cases, he said. 

He said he was trying to describe his “commitment to the tempo and the pace of the fight against paramilitary crime in communities right across the country”.  

I think there’s an opportunity to use all of our powers – both in an investigate stance and in a disruptive stance to tackle the evil scourge of paramilitary crime.

Byrne noted: “I recognise that my enthusiasm to talk in soundbites has caused a distraction.” 

He said he wanted to place on record his commitment to safeguarding children, and stressed that he was not trying to describe a blanket policy or something that would be applied retrospectively. 

He was not suggesting that children would be used as a weapon or pawn in tackling paramilitary crime, he said. 

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Daragh Brophy

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