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Superintendent Gerry Murray ALAMY.jpg
World News

Catholic officers advised to bring guns to Mass after NI data breach

by Heather Preston

Catholic police officers in Northern Ireland have been asking if they need to bring their personal firearms along to Mass, following safety concerns after last month's police data breach.

Superintendent Gerry Murray, the chairperson of the Catholic Police Guild of Northern Ireland (PSNI), says he has advised some officers to bring personal protection weapons with them when attending Mass.

PSNI's Chief Constable Simon Byrne stepped down on Monday after several controversies - including a significant data breach in August which accidentally released information on some 9,500 police officers and staff online.

The leaked data included initials, departments and locations for all current PSNI serving officers.

Byrne also came under fire after a court ruled last week that two officers had been unlawfully disciplined to placate Sinn Fein. The largest unionist party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), welcomed his resignation.

The data breach has PSNI officers and civilian staff "frightened and scared", parliament's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee heard on Tuesday.

Murray told MP's that Catholic members of the PSNI were more likely to keep their professions a secret from friends and family for safety. He has encouraged them to carry their personal protection weapon to Mass following the leak.

Murray told the Westminster committee: "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 added that the security risk, together with budgetary restraints, would limit the PSNI's future ability to recruit Catholic officers.

Liam Kelly, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI), said officers felt shocked and betrayed by the data breach.

"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.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd apologised for the data breach, explaining that the sensitive data on an Excel spreadsheet tab was visually obscured and should not have been sent out.


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