Northern Ireland Police may bring guns to Mass

guns data breach

A data breach in Northern Ireland means Police are being advised they can take guns to Mass along with their prayer books.

The move comes after about 10,000 officers’ and support staff’s personal information was leaked last month.

The data was mistakenly released in response to a freedom of information request.

Superintendent Gerry Murray confirmed he told officers they should bring weapons to Mass if they feel unsafe.

And they do feel unsafe.

“The idea is that they should feel safe while entering the Catholic Church and also leaving the Catholic Church, and there’s no better way, the issue of the personal protection weapon is for that, for personal protection,” Murray said.

Murray, the chairperson of the Catholic Police Guild of Northern Ireland, said: “We have had officers resigning, going from the organisation.”

Chief resigns

On Monday, Northern Ireland’s chief constable of Police Simon Byrne (pictured)  resigned. His resignation followed several weeks of pressure over the data breach.

The pressure was also on Byrne over a court ruling that he had unlawfully disciplined two junior officers.

He had been due to attend Tuesday’s House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee session.

“We are in a dark space. We are in a downward spiral,” said Liam Kelly, the chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland.

Government criticised

Northern Ireland Police and civilian staff feel frightened, horrified and betrayed by their employer because of the data breach, their representatives told the parliamentary committee.

They want the UK government to help with large-scale funding.

“Despite it being 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, we are finding we are having to police against the backdrop of a severe terrorist threat,” Kelly said.

He noted morale among police officers had already been “plummeting rapidly”. Recruitment had been a challenge even before the breach, he told the committee.

“There is a crisis and I don’t think that even if we see the return of a Northern Ireland executive, the money is not there in its coffers. We need Westminster and the UK government to step in here.”

Parliamentary Committee investigating

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is investigating the data breach. Representatives of the policing board had been expected to appear before MPs on Tuesday.

The board, however, withdrew from the hearing after Byrne’s resignation. A public session of the board scheduled for Thursday was also cancelled.

Parliamentary committee chair, Simon Hoare, said he was disappointed the Northern Ireland Policing Board felt it had been unable to attend the session.

It “should be in no doubt” that the Board would have to answer questions before MPs, he said.


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