It is bad enough that two police officers were sanctioned after the investigation into an apparent breach of Covid rules in February on Ormeau Road.
But it is truly extraordinary that they have never been considered for prosecution.
The couple came across a commemoration of those murdered in Sean Graham’s terrible bookmaker atrocity in 1992.
If society goes down the road of blockades, it is essential that it is applied in a consistent manner and seen to be so (rather than the police not only neglecting offenses, but acquiescing to them, as at the funeral of the IRA last year).
The exact manner in which the officers handled the delicate situation they encountered on the route de l’Ormeau should of course be subject to review. But they were (in fact) disciplined by the police chief, before fully understanding the circumstances, after the nationalist outcry over the PSNI’s handling of the Covid breach. The saga has fueled the feeling that when Republicans get angry about something, the PSNI’s high command jumps.
The police mediator investigated the complaint against the two policemen and sent a file to prosecutors.
It is now December, almost a year after the incident. Are prosecutors unable to expedite cases that clearly lack merit?
This incident is not the only example of police weakness in the face of some outcry. Weakly, Simon Bryne last December gave in to criticism from the ombudsman over the handling of the Black Lives Matter protests in June.
Far from apologizing, as it did for this episode, PSNI should have stood firm in its response to the calculated violation of social distancing at the second Black Lives Matter gatherings. Is Mr Byrne unaware that people who obey the rules of Covid must see that those who do not willfully will suffer the consequences?
It was heartwarming yesterday to see a series of prominent police figures – Mark Lindsay, Jim Gamble, Roy McComb – calling for the two officers to return to their normal duties.
We thank these PSNI officers for their service in a delicate community atmosphere, even if their leaders do not.
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