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Sunday, 3 December, 2000, 11:50 GMT
New NI police 'will protect rights'

Nationalists feel police reform Act does not go far enough
The head of the commission which recommended controversial changes to Northern Ireland policing has again appealed to nationalists to support the new police service.

Earlier this week, EU Commissioner Chris Patten, who headed the Independent Commission on the Future of Policing in Northern Ireland, expressed his support for the government's police reform legislation.

Sinn Fein has rejected the Police NI Act as an acceptable framework for creating a new police service which would be acceptable to the whole community, and has said it could not encourage young republicans to join the new Police Service of Northern Ireland.

It has said it will not take up its places on the new Police Board, which will oversee the changes to policing and to which the new police service will be accountable.

Despite government pressure, the SDLP has so far reserved judgement.

SDLP policing spokesman
Alex Attwood: "More work needed to convince nationalists of new beginning"
But speaking on the BBC's Breakfast With Frost programme on Sunday, Mr Patten again appealed to nationalists to accept the new police service as outlined in the Act.

He said: "I think that all nationalists and republicans would see that the proposals we have made for the police, ensure that there will be better civilian control over the police in Northern Ireland, in the future, than there is in almost any other society.

"I think they will see that the proposals we have put forward are for an effective police force, but also for a police force that would protect people's human rights and would protect both communities from the people on the extremes."

'Revised Implementation Plan'

Mr Patten's appeal came after Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon revealed on Saturday that he had been told that the government was revising its Implementation Plan for the Act to take account of his party's concerns.

Speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday, the Social Democratic and Labour Party deputy leader said no decision would be taken by his party in relation to the new police force until it was certain of the plan's contents.

Seamus Mallon:
Seamus Mallon wants clarity on details of implementation plan
"I'm told it is being revised," he said.

"I have been given indications about what might be in it, but I want to get that revised implementation plan in my hand. I want to be able to read it and assess it and make a judgement on it.

"Spinning on this will not be sufficient. Nor will the type of unwieldy sentences with x number of double negatives in them be of any use to people.

"We are at that that stage where we want to be absolutely clear and absolutely sure."

Mr Mallon said the "easy line" which his party could have taken would have been to take up its seats on the Police Board and wait to see how the Northern Ireland Secretary would handle the controversial issues of creating the new force's flag and emblem.

If they didn't like it they could then leave.

"But that is not going to solve the policing problem," he said.

Flag and badge

Mr Mallon's comments are likely to concern unionists for whom the flag and badge of the new force are also controversial issues.

RUC badge: New force's badge is still controversial issue
The Ulster Unionists opposed changing the Royal Ulster Constabulary's name and were only partly satisfied by the government's promise that the RUC's title would be "enshrined in the title deeds" of the new force.

Last week, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble warned nationalists against trying to negotiate further police reforms, in a speech to Conservative MPs in London.

The policing issue is not the only issue threatening the stability of Northern Ireland's political process.

The issues of paramilitary arms and demilitarisation are also causing widening rifts between the parties in the Northern Ireland Executive.

The British and Irish Governments are currently trying to formulate a package to avert another crisis, against an unofficial deadline of about 15 December following US President Clinton's visit to the UK and Ireland from 12-14 December.

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See also:

28 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Patten 'supports' NI Police Act
24 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Catholics urged to join NI police
24 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein rebuke for police service
24 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Support urged for police act
22 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Government forces through NI bill
21 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
NI Police Bill to become law
17 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
SDLP call over Policing Bill
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