Michael Kelly and Martin O’Brien
The North’s most-senior policeman has called on Catholic leaders to do more to encourage young members of their community to consider becoming a police officer.
In an exclusive interview with The Irish Catholic Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) George Hamilton also reveals that he struggled over whether or not to attend the funeral of former deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Mr Hamilton, who rarely gives interviews, also speaks about the importance of his own Christian faith.
On policing, he says that there “hasn’t been the strength of advocacy for a career in policing that I would have hoped for, this far into the new police organisation,” he said.
Asked whether he meant Catholic leaders and opinion-formers within the Catholic community, Mr Hamilton said: “Yes.” However, he also stressed that this support would need to come “probably more in the political realm than in the religious realm”.
On the funeral of Martin McGuinness, Mr Hamilton said he “did have a dilemma” about his attendance, that there was both a personal and professional aspect to his decision and that he had to “weigh up” whether to go, but does not question himself now as to whether he made the right decision.
“I did realise that my attendance would be read in different ways by people across the community, in different ways.
“I suppose Martin represented the sort of conflicted history that we have had, his involvement with the IRA and the pain and suffering that that organisation caused to communities, and then in the last half of his life the massive contribution that he made to building and maintaining the peace.
“So, I suppose like many people my emotions regarding him and the attendance at his funeral was a little bit of a dilemma. My values and emotions were being pulled in opposite directions and I just had a fundamental decision to make about whether or not I believed it was the right thing to do, to go.”
He says, as Chief Constable and holding a senior public office in Northern Ireland, it was “appropriate to attend the funeral of [the person] who had been deputy First Minister for a decade”.
Reflecting, Mr Hamilton describes his relationship with Mr McGuinness as “a positive relationship”.
“We got problems solved together and he was a great pragmatist and he never compromised his own ideals and aspirations and values and he never asked me to compromise mine, which was important, and it was a frank and forthright relationship.”
On his own Christian faith, he says “there is a passage of Scripture from Micah [6.8] which talks about what God requires of us, and it says to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly and if you can do that, justice, mercy, have some compassion, and a bit of humility, those are three things that make a pretty good cop in my experience.”