A Sinn Fein MLA has backed a new Northern Ireland Executive to restore confidence in policing in south Armagh.
The move towards a new Stormont election could be triggered just after midnight (October 28) if no 11th hour resolution to the NI Protocol is accepted by the DUP.
Community policing concerns have been raised after a new chief inspector role in south Armagh held from November 2021 was deemed to be no longer affordable by the PSNI.
The top officer position for the area was then reverted back to an inspector role in July 2022.
All details of the south Armagh downgrading were presented by the District Commander in a policing and community safety partnership report presented to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The decision was said in the report to be made due to “significant budgetary constraints” despite the Stormont elected rep stating the position was being considered for up to five years.
Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MLA, Liz Kimmins has now expressed her frustration following Chief Constable Simon Byrne’s confirmation he was “acutely aware of the likely adverse impact upon the community”.
She said: “I am deeply disappointed by the decision to roll back on the commitment to have a permanent Chief Inspector in the south Armagh area, the decision to reduce this to a temporary role has undermined confidence in the police service.
“It also dilutes the overall report, particularly when this was the very first commitment that was made in the south Armagh report and one which the local community was keen to see implemented
“I understand that the lack of a budget and resources has led to this decision and that is why the re-establishment of the Executive is necessary as a means to resolve this and give our local community an accountable police service that meets their expectations.”
The removal of the higher role in south Armagh has been highlighted as part of a “rank ratio” review due to an “uncertainty” of the upcoming policing budget.
Chief Inspector Byrne said: “We are acutely aware of the likely adverse impact upon community confidence arising from not just this decision, but all of the difficult resourcing decisions we must now take as an immediate consequence of our current budgetary situation.
“Regrettably, due to continuing uncertainty with regard to the Police Service budget for 2022/23, we have immediately commenced work on a ‘rank ratio’ exercise, examining the number of officers at rank as a proportion of overall numbers.
“The additional post in south Armagh was never established under our Human Resources plan.
“A total of six established Chief Inspector posts were cut as a result of this exercise.
“That being said, we are reliant and satisfied, that the professionalism and dedication of the management team in Newry, Mourne and Down will continue to provide appropriate leadership and oversight of the remaining recommendations in the South Armagh Policing Review.
“We are grateful to the board for their continuing support and advocacy highlighting the very real and immediate consequences an inadequate budgetary situation on our service delivery.”