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Devolution 'has failed to deliver' for policing in Northern Ireland

The inquiry is examining how effective the institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement have been in 'enabling cross-community, stable and effective government' in Northern Ireland.

As the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) approaches, the representative body for police officers in Northern Ireland believes that devolution has "failed its people" and hasn't delivered for policing.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) is currently accepting evidence as it evaluates the effectiveness of the institutions created by the GFA, which established a system of devolved government in the six counties.

Acknowledging the importance of the fact that "countless lives have been saved because of the GFA", the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) was less complimentary about its impact on policing.

Its submission read: "From a purely PFNI perspective on day-to-day governance, [devolution] has failed to deliver on the promise of the GFA.

"It has, therefore, failed its people. Stop-start politics have hampered devolution and led to missed opportunities to deliver good government.”

Frustration arises from the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly, a power-sharing institution created as part of devolution, has repeatedly stopped functioning due to disagreements between the two leading political parties: the DUP and Sinn Fein.

As of the time of writing, a fifth attempt to restore power-sharing since May has failed. The DUP has refused to engage since this point due to its ongoing opposition of the NI Protocol.

This impasse impacts decision making, which in a policing context can be seen through the issues with officers' pay.

Just last week, the PFNI Chair Liam Kelly criticised the "unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles" surrounding the implementation of any new pay award in a letter written to the NIAC.

The PFNI's submission to the inquiry doubles down on this grievance, arguing that what should be a straightforward issue becomes “bogged down in tedious, time-consuming bureaucratic box-ticking".

Failing to approve a pay award in a timely manner has been a recurring issue, resulting in more than one instance where the PFNI has been compelled to demand back pay for its officers.

Its submission continues: "The PFNI finds this an intolerable situation. The process is far from user-friendly and needs to be urgently overhauled."

Officer numbers were also referenced in the submission, as were fears that the current system of governance has allowed policing to become a 'Cinderella' service where insufficient attention is paid to officers' "welfare and wellbeing".

Evidence will be accepted until January 12, 2023.

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