PSNI Chief Constable defends 'offensive' tweet showing him posing with heavily armed officers

Constable Simon Byrne (C) tweeted an image showing him standing with colleagues in Crossmaglen on Christmas Day (Picture: Twitter/Constable Simon Byrne)

The PSNI Chief Constable has refused to back down after he was criticised for posing with heavily armed officers in Northern Ireland. 

Constable Simon Byrne tweeted an image showing him standing with colleagues at Crossmaglen station on Christmas Day.

The men were holding rifles in the picture.

Several nationalist politicians were unhappy with him and said the image could have a negative effect on the public’s confidence in the police and “send the wrong message”.

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy said the image was "offensive to the local community and utterly unacceptable".

SDLP councillor Pete Byrne said he wanted to meet with the constable urgently and he felt the post was a “deliberate attempt to set Crossmaglen and south Armagh as a place apart".

Constable Byrne defended his post in a clarification letter below:

Constable Byrne wrote: “I see that my tweet from Crossmaglen yesterday has caused some emotion.

“This was a visit by me on Christmas day to support local offices who do work in unique and often difficult circumstances.

“The officers are carrying weapons and sadly this is the stark reality of the police environment they working tackling the severe terrorist threat.

“This is no reflection on the local community who work daily with their local police officers to create a safe community.”

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy was not happy with the picture (Picture: PA)

Councillor Byrne had claimed the police head may have damaged “community relations”.

He said: "A lot of work has been done in recent years to build community relations with the PSNI locally.

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In the original post, Constable Byrne praised the officers at Crossmaglen PSNI station for their ‘sense of duty & optimism is inspiring’.

A PSNI spokesman said: "The chief constable is happy to meet with any community or political representative who has a positive contribution to make about local policing matters."