13/03/2007

Board members hold round of US Meetings

Members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board will this week hold a series of meetings with key opinion formers and influencers during a 4 day working visit to Washington and New York (13-17 March 2007).

As part of a round of meetings, Board members will be briefing senior administration officials, Senators and Members of Congress, and US Special Envoy Dr Paula Dobriansky on key policing issues and future challenges ahead. Board members will also attend a number of events as part of the St Patrick’s week celebrations and meet with policing representatives in the US.

Speaking about the visit, Board Chairman Professor Sir Desmond Rea said: “We are at a critical moment in Northern Ireland’s history and policing remains a central issue. The Board has been at the forefront of driving policing change, supporting the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to the ends of effective and efficient policing, holding the PSNI to account through the Chief Constable for the delivery of those ends and dealing with critical issues as they arise.

At meetings this week Board members will be advising on the Board’s role and record. As a Board, we are proud of the major progress that has been made in policing and in briefings this week we will be ensuring there is clear understanding of the policing journey to date. Under the leadership of Sir Hugh Orde, the PSNI has delivered on a massive programme of change and continues to work to ensure that the community can have confidence in the ability of the police service to deliver effective and efficient policing.

In the wake of the Assembly elections, policing cannot and must not be used as a political football. Like the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland I want to see politics work for the future benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland. Similarly in policing, I want to see full political and community support for policing fully and finally delivered for the whole community.

The Board recognises that there are challenges ahead. I am confident that the Board will continue to meet its important policing oversight responsibilities.

Northern Ireland has had a turbulent past and, as I have said before, dealing with the past is not an issue that can be solved by the police alone. It is an issue for the wider community, for political parties and most importantly for government. It is an issue that must be given the priority it deserves.”

In advance of the visit, Sir Desmond also paid tribute to US interest in Northern Ireland and policing in recent years,

“We have come a long way in a relatively short space of time. The US administration and a range of US audiences have taken a close interest in Northern Ireland affairs.

The Board is grateful to all those who have been prepared to voice support and give encouragement to policing in Northern Ireland. Particular recognition must be given to the US President’s past and present Special Envoys to Northern Ireland - Ambassador Richard Haass, Dr Mitchell Reiss. Tribute must also be paid in to the US Consul in Belfast Dean Pittman and his predecessor Barbara Stephenson for their commitment and contribution.”

(JM/KMcA)

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