07/08/2002

SF renew attacks on SDLP over policing board

A war of words has erupted between Northern Ireland's two main nationalist and republican parties, with Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy accusing the SDLP of desperately trying to find "political cover" for joining the Policing Board.

Hitting out at the SDLP's policing role, Mr Murphy said: "In recent weeks high level SDLP supporters such as 'independent' Policing Board members Tom Kelly and Denis Bradley have tried to present an argument for Sinn Féin joining the Policing Board.

"These increasingly desperate attempts to provide political cover for the mistakes of the SDLP mirror the nervousness of many local SDLP councillors who are being forced onto the local District Policing Boards."

However, SDLP South Down MP, Eddie McGrady said a new policing service could not begin without Sinn Fein's involvement on the board.

He said that Sinn Fein should not only commit themselves by signing up to the Policing Board, but also condemn intimidation tactics currently being used against new recruits to the PSNI.

"The SDLP is in the business of creating a new policing service based on the Patten principles at Westminster, at Weston Park and in the Implementation Strategy, we are determined to create that new beginning," he said.

"Accountable policing won't be obtained through yelping from the sidelines, but through total participation in the detail of its implementation. A new policing service won't be constructed through abstentionism."

Mr Murphy hit back saying that Sinn Féin's position was "crystal clear".

"We will not look at endorsing policing until the British Government bring forward the legislation which they have admitted, along with the SDLP, Irish Government and ourselves, is required to bridge the current deficit in accountability. The reality is that the Police Board is unable to hold the PSNI to account," Mr Murphy said. "For two years loyalists have waged a sectarian campaign against nationalists. The PSNI appear to be powerless, or perhaps unwilling, to do anything to stop this sectarian onslaught. Policing Board deputy chair Denis Bradley and a large number of SDLP elected representatives have admitted as much."

Mr Murphy added: "Sinn Féin joining a toothless Policing Board will not bridge the policing deficit and the SDLP know this. Whether the British Government live up to commitments on putting the policing deficit right will be the basis of Sinn Féin's decisions on policing."

(MB)

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