A WELSH politician with Irish roots has said using the codeword ‘Operation Irish’ for a community education programme about dog mess was an example of monumental stupidity.
A South Wales Police chief was forced to issue an unreserved apology after the choice of name for its latest programme caused outrage and led to allegations of racism.
Paul Flynn, M. P. for Newport West, told the Irish World: “I was baffled when I heard about it. It was an example of such monumental stupidity it was hard to believe it was true. It is the result of police relying on a random selection of names for their operations. Apparently, they press a button and whichever name appears from their list is the name they accept for their latest operation.
He added: “Nobody seemed to be prepared to exercise a brain cell to say this was going to be offensive and many people would object to it. They seemed to be completely insensitive to that, and have quite rightly made a grovelling apology. I would say the South Wales Police are hiding their heads under their pillows right now.”
The gaffe came to light when the angry father of a pupil complained after officers had made a visit to his child’s primary school in the Llanedeyrn district of Cardiff, labelling the codename “outrageous”.
However, Mr Flynn believes it was an insensitive mistake rather than any kind of racist action. He said: “The Irish being treated in a demeaning way is ancient history now. If anything, it’s the other way round – people might complain the place is dominated by people with Irish ancestry, and with some justification! Many in South Wales regard Ireland as the land of our mothers and fathers. This was simply an unfortunate mistake – thankfully, there is no question of prejudice against the Irish these days.”
Police Commander for Cardiff, Chief Superintendent Belinda Davies, said in her apology: “As commander for Cardiff I accept total responsibility for this error and unreservedly apologise. The administrative process has been reviewed across the force area and amendments made to prevent this from happening again.
“I have personally addressed this with the officers involved in the operation and they have each given serious consideration to the situation and also offer unreserved apologies for the insensitive name and offence caused.”
In Cardiff, some 30% of the population is believed to be of Irish descent.