First Minister joins chief constable at PSNI attestation ceremony

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said it was “hugely positive” that First Minister Michelle O’Neill had attended Friday’s (February 9) attestation ceremony.

Feb 12, 2024
By Paul Jacques

It was the first time Sinn Féin had been represented at a passing out ceremony since the PSNI was established 23 years ago.

The First Minister expressed hope that her attendance at a PSNI graduation ceremony will encourage more nationalists to join the police.

In 2020, Ms O’Neill became the first senior Sinn Féin figure to attend a recruitment campaign launch for the PSNI, posing with posters showing policing as a positive career choice.

Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and Justice Minister Naomi Long also joined Mr Boutcher at the Police College in Garnerville as six officers attested in front of an audience of both friends and family, before embarking on their career in policing in the near future.

Mr Boutcher said: “As well as an extremely proud and special day for our newest police officers, who have attested as constables, we were pleased to welcome the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister who attended today’s event.

“This will be the last group of officers who will attest until October 2024 and we look forward to receiving positive news from the NI Executive that will allow the PSNI to be resourced to the levels required to continue to Keep People Safe.

“First Minster, Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister, are already aware of our budgetary situation and we welcome the opportunity to work with them to find solutions and halt the decline in officer and staff numbers across the service.”

Ms O’Neill said: “I offer my congratulations to all officers graduating today. It was good to meet them and their families as they embark on their policing careers. I wish each of them well as they play their part in bringing about safer communities.”

Ms Little-Pengelly said: “Joining the ranks of the PSNI is both a rewarding and challenging career and I wish today’s graduates the very best for the future.

“Everyone who wears the uniform of the PSNI works tirelessly to keep people safe across Northern Ireland. We are in their debt for the level of service they provide to society and we must never forget, or take that commitment to keeping us safe, for granted.”

The Justice Minister said she was pleased to attend the ceremony to mark “the achievement of these student police officers”.

Ms Long said: “I can see that those of you who have chosen policing as their career have demonstrated an enthusiasm and dedication second to none.

“Policing is more than a job. It is serving your community during some of the most difficult experiences of their daily lives. I warmly congratulate you on your achievement today and wish you every success in what I hope will be a long and rewarding career in the PSNI.”

The chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board also welcomed the attendance of the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister at the attestation ceremony, and called for funding of policing to be given urgent attention.

Deirdre Toner said: “Policing is the key to a safe and stable society and I very much welcome the support shown from the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister at today’s attestation ceremony.

“There now needs to be urgent focus given to funding levels within the police service so that the chief constable has the resources needed to meet the demands faced and calls for service from the community.

“As a board we will continue the lobby for investment in policing, on pay for officers and staff and on improvements that can be made for policing – improvements that will benefit both the PSNI and the wider community.

“We trust that the Executive in their discussions and deliberations recognise the critical role of policing to our ongoing peace process, to society stability and to ensuring the safety of all in our community is maintained, and the importance of investment to maintain that.”

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