22/05/2003

SDLP denounces SF disruption of Omagh DPP meeting

The SDLP have lambasted Sinn Fein after a protest, organised by republicans, caused the abandonment of the first public meeting of a District Policing Partnership (DPP) in Co Tyrone last night.

SDLP Policing Board Member Joe Byrne criticised the party after speakers at the meeting in Omagh on Wednesday evening where drowned out by chanting republicans in the audience.

Speaking after the disruption Mr Byrne said: “The District Policing Partnership must be allowed to get on with their work in order to deliver more effective community based policing.

"Throughout the North of Ireland people want safer streets and safer communities. The DPP is a vital forum for local policing and crime related issues to be discussed and tackled in a unique way.

"One of the key features of District Policing Partnerships is the provision of public meetings so that there is more transparent and open exchange between Police District Commanders and the local civilian policing partnership. The District Policing Partnership is about making policing more effective into the future so that people feel local crime is being tackled in a partnership way.”

Northern Ireland Policing Board chairman, Professor Desmond Rea, also condemned the disruption describing it as "reprehensible".

He said: “The DPPs were at the heart of the Patten recommendations and are an essential part of the new policing arrangements. The DPPS also represent a significant step forward in developing genuine community policing for the whole community. The people of Omagh deserve better than they were subjected to last night."

However, Sinn Fein councillor Barney McAleer claimed that the protest demonstrated local republican anger that the policing issue had not yet been resolved.

He added:" "Nationalist and republican people within the district felt it was an opportune time to make a protest about an issue that people feel very angry about, the fact that the policing issue has not been resolved."

DPPs have 207 independent members (108 Catholics and 99 non-Catholics) serve along side elected members drawn from local councils.

They were created under the programme of changes to policing in Northern Ireland recommended by the Patten report, which saw the RUC become the PSNI in November 2001.

(MB)

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