04/04/2008

Top Cop Squares Up To Maskey Over West Belfast

In a TV clash worthy of US presidential candidate hopefuls, last night saw an unexpected war of words breaking out between a Sinn Fein member of the NI Policing Board - and former Lord Mayor of Belfast - and the Chief Constable.

At the monthly Policing Board meeting in Belfast, PSNI boss, Sir Hugh Orde accused Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey of undermining his force with what he called "groundless allegations that officers were failing to investigate crime effectively".

At the monthly Policing Board meeting in Belfast, Sir Hugh first conceded that his force was "not perfect" but vehemently denied that his officers were failing to act against crime.

"Broad statements saying my force is not up to it merits a response from me as I believe my force is up to it," he said.

He said Sinn Fein's stance was at best manipulative and at worst anti-police and that he had requested a meeting with Gerry Adams about the matter.

Sir Hugh hit out at further claims by Sinn Fein members that the police had not acted on intelligence ahead of recent violence in Belfast, including the recent murder of former republican prisoner Frank McGreevy - despite a man having been charged in connection with the violent death.

However, the comments drew an angry response from Sinn Fein, with Alex Maskey demanding a public apology.

He said the suggestion that his party was anti-police was deeply unhelpful in building relationships between the force and republicans.

The apology wasn't forthcoming and TV news viewers were treated to what turned out to be his first major clash with republicans since they agreed to support the PSNI.

(BMcC)

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