15/10/2013

Assembly Debates DUP NCA Motion

The Northern Ireland Assembly is debating a DUP motion today addressing the possible impact of not establishing the National Crime Agency (NCA) in Northern Ireland.

Dubbed the 'British FBI', the NCA is a national law enforcement agency that operates across the United Kingdom. It was introduced this month, but its operations in Northern Ireland have been blocked by opposition from the SDLP and Sinn Féin.

The nationalist parties claimed the establishment of the NCA in Northern Ireland could create a police force that is "unaccountable" and would undermine the Peace Process.

But DUP MLA Peter Weir said: "It is very unfortunate therefore that to date the NCA cannot operate fully within Northern Ireland because of a refusal by both the SDLP and Sinn Fein to give their backing.

"There should be absolutely no need for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate the need for effective measures to tackle those who would engage in drug smuggling or human trafficking. However this debate will inevitably focus to some degree on why two nationalist parties have placed politics above the safety of our community.

"In particular there were fears expressed about the accountability of this organisation. We have worked with the Chief Constable and the Department of Justice ensuring that the Chief Constable has been able to negotiate a unique situation where he will have full responsibility for policing here. That actually gives Northern Ireland the highest level of accountability anywhere in the United Kingdom.

"This is a vital issue for every person in Northern Ireland and it is time that all parties in the Assembly took a more mature and measured attitude to how we face down organised criminals operating in our society."

The SDLP's Justice Spokesperson Alban Maginness said: "Fighting organised crime must be a key priority but it is not best served by introducing an additional layer of unaccountable policing in Northern Ireland.

"Setting local policing priorities, local control of operations and ensuring local accountability are critical in the fight against serious and organised crime. All of this will be completely undermined if the National Crime Agency is extended to Northern Ireland.

"There is a case to be made for the need for a National Crime Agency in Britain where there are multiple constabularies but that need is not demonstrated in Northern Ireland where there is one police force.

"We are disappointed that the Minister for Justice, David Ford, in his support for the National Crime Agency, fails to realise how serious a backward step this will be in terms of undermining the Patten principles and police accountability.

"He would be better placed joining the SDLP in advocating improved cooperation between the PSNI, the Garda Síochána and police forces in Britain and Europe in the fight against organised crime."

(IT/JP)

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