Catholic PSNI officers being ‘urged to bring weapons to Mass’ after data breach scandal

The Chair of the Catholic Police Guild says he has been advising Catholic members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to take their personal protection weapons to Mass. Superintendent Gerry Murray (pictured) says he has been giving the advice in the wake of the police data breach.

Personal details relating to over 10,000 PSNI officers and staff were mistakenly released in response to an innocuous freedom of information request.

Representatives from various policing organisations gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs committee on the security impact of the PSNI data breach that occurred last month.

“We have had officers, resigning, going from the organisation. Our members are frightened, scared, have no idea what tomorrow will bring for them,” Supt. Murray told the committee.

“And I have incidents where young Catholic officers are asking me: do they carry their personal protection weapon when they go to Mass?”

He added: “That has happened, and the advice I’ve given: yes, you do.

“Because 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.”

Mr Murray said that the security pressure stemming from the data breach, combined with budgetary constraints, would limit the PSNI’s ability to recruit Catholic officers.

He said: “I would fear, given the length of service I have been in this organisation, that we will have a major difficulty. Probably we will survive with regards to retention, but with regards to recruitment, if you look at the last census in 2021, there it’s something like 45 or 47% Catholic.

“Well, that should be the bar which the police service of Northern Ireland should be adhering to.”

He added: “You can see actually one of our recruiting posters where they have put on it ‘do not join the PSNI’. Already there is this propaganda starting and we’re starting from zero now, there is no recruitment. There’s no budget for recruitment.”

Liam Kelly, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI) that represents more than 6,000 rank and file PSNI officers, said their members felt betrayed by their information being leaked from the inside.

“Despite 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, we still find that we’re having to police in Northern Ireland against the backdrop of a severe terrorist threat, both on- and off-duty,” he said.

“So you ask what the impact has been of the data breach from my members and from my own perspective, we’re appalled and we’re shocked, we’re dismayed, and we’re scared about the implications about what has happened.

“Because the reality around this, our officers, from whatever persuasion, take their personal security very seriously. And they feel betrayed, because it was their employer who has put this information into the public domain.”