28/02/2003

Adams should meet chief constable in 'near future'

US Senator Bill Flynn has called on the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to meet with PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde in the near future.

On the prospect of a meeting between Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and the chief constable, Mr Flynn said: "I would encourage that to the greatest extent possible."

Mr Flynn, who is leading a Congressional delegation to the province this week, lavished fulsome praise on the north's top police officer, describing him as his "kind of cop".

"I think that one of the most encouraging things that has happened in the north of Ireland is the appointment as chief constable Hugh Orde. Some of us know of Hugh Orde and his work and his successes, we have become great supporters of what he stands for. He says it like it is and sometimes as he knows best to his own detriment.

"He could be easily elected police chief of New York City which takes some doing. I think it is a sign of encouragement to the entire community. I have great confidence in Hugh Orde."

Elsewhere, Unionists have reacted angrily to US Senator Flynn's criticisms of the UUP leader yesterday.

Rev Martin Smith said that he was not surprised by Mr Flynn's comments, adding that it would only colour the view of unionists towards US involvement in the province.

"It will only add to the image of some Americans, the do-gooders, who are at best deeply naïve, and at worst extremely biased and green tinged. Perhaps the last would suit William Flynn more than the first," he said.

Ulster Unionist Party chairman James Cooper slammed Mr Flynn's comments as "superficial".

He added: "The fact is that David Trimble has taken immense risks in his leadership of the Unionist Party to move the peace process forward. If any party has engaged in this exercise of taking risks it has been our party, it has been an immense struggle but he has narrowly prevailed."

Mr Cooper also rejected media reports that Mr Trimble was nearing the end of his tenure as leader.

"It is leadership at its best that David Trimble has exhibited during this process."

On the wider problems with devolution, Mr Cooper conceded that public apathy could result in the administration's hiatus.

"It is inevitable that if a fix cannot be found then they [the general public] will be disenchanted with the whole edifice... it very much depends on rapid progress being made in the weeks and months ahead otherwise the public will switch from the political process. I hope that doesn't happen because there is a huge residual support for devolution – for government by Ulster people," he said.

(GMcG)

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