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Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly
"We have to get the legislation right"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 13:08 GMT
Gaps remain in policing, says SDLP
Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Flanagan: Delay will be for a short duration
A number of questions about police reforms in Northern Ireland still have to be resolved before nationalists consider taking seats on the new Policing Board.

The comment was made by Alex Attwood of the Social Democratic and Labour Party a day after it emerged the start of a major recruitment campaign had been delayed.

RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan said the campaign was being held back in the hope of imminent support for the service from nationalists, republicans and the Catholic Church.

Alex Attwood: Issues
Alex Attwood: Issues "remain to be resolved"

Mr Attwood, whose party met the Irish Government about the policing issue on Tuesday night, said progress had been made since Christmas.

He added: I think the chief constable would confirm if you were to ask him that he has not acted on the basis of an expectation that a favourable decision is imminent in relation to going on to the Policing Board.

"I think the chief constable knows, the certainly Irish government knows and everybody else should know that whilst gaps have been narrowed between what is required for the new begining and realising the new beginning, gaps continue to remain.

He added the SDLP would "take risks" for policing "because our community requires proper policing now".

"They want to roll back lawlessness and paramilitarism.

"They want to test the institutions including its police service. We cannot offer to our community the new begining for policing that is so flawed that it will not be realise."

It had been planned to begin recruiting on a 50/50 basis between Catholics and Protestants on Friday. At the moment, 92% of the RUC is made up of Protestants.

The issue of emblems is also contentious
The issue of emblems is also contentious

However, both the SDLP and Sinn Fein have said they will not take their seats on the Policing Board, which will oversee the new service, and replace the Police Authority for Northern Ireland.

The parties have cited a wide "gap" between the Patten recommendations on the future of policing in Northern Ireland and the legislation in the new Police Bill.

On Tuesday, the chief constable said that the delay in recruitment could only be for a short duration, "given the pressures brought about by natural retirement and the take-up of the Patten severance arrangements".

He is planning to have the first contingent of 240 recruits on the streets by next Spring, which would be two years since the last group finished training.

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said the delay would make no difference to his party's position.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has said there are no immediate plans for Tony Blair to visit Northern Ireland.

Mr Blair is said to be "completely plugged in" to what Downing Street call "the incredibly intensive negotiations" which have been going on now for four weeks.

The prime minister is due to meet the new US President next week.

But Downing Street said they were not expecting the Bush administration to play a part in the Northern Ireland talks at this stage.

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20 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Body urges Police Bill rethink
13 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Police recruitment campaign delayed
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