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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 16:27 GMT
Reid confident of new NI police service
RUC officers
Recruitment drive for new officers began last month
Northern Ireland Secretary of State John Reid has said the province will have a new police service by September, regardless of what happens in the peace process.

A recruitment drive for the new Police Service of Northern Ireland began in February.

It is understood that more than 13,000 people have asked for application forms for the new police service.

The service will replace the Royal Ulster Constabulary under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

Dr Reid was speaking ahead of possible round-table talks on Thursday involving the British and Irish Governments and the pro Good Friday Agreement parties.

There have been weeks of intensive talks between the parties and the two governments aimed at breaking the political deadlock over decommissioning, demilitarisation and policing reform.

John Reid: Spoke to pupils about policing issue
John Reid: Spoke to pupils about policing issue
Speaking to pupils at a Catholic grammar school in Ballymena, County Antrim on Tuesday, Dr Reid said he was determined to deliver the new service "come what may".

He told St Louis's Grammar School pupils: "I hope that will happen with the active support of all sides of the community but this September, there will be a new police service for Northern Ireland - whatever else happens elsewhere in this process.

"That is why we have begun 50/50 recruitment because we want to start working towards a police service which is, in the words of the advertisement a `true reflection of the whole community'.

"And that is not a process which will end this September. Quite the reverse.

"Five hundred more officers will be recruited on a 50/50 basis next year, and the year after that and so on until we reach the point where the service is that true reflection."

There is increasing speculation that Prime Minister Tony Blair will fly to Hillsborough Castle for the round table discussion and individual meetings with the parties.

It is hoped the talks will break the deadlock over IRA decommissioning, the scaling down of British Army bases, unionist sanctions against Sinn Fein and policing.

Application

However, with a recruitment drive under way for the police service, the problem of securing nationalist SDLP and Sinn Fein support for policing remains the most difficult.

The SDLP is holding back its endorsement of the new service, hoping to gain promises of further police reforms from the government.

On Tuesday, Dr Reid said recruits would be joining a police service which was "far in advance of anything I have seen in Europe or America".

The police in London, Dublin or Glasgow did not have the same "level of accountability and community interaction" that was being implemented in the province, he said.

Dr Reid also cited the powers of the Police Ombudsman and her team of investigators, the role of the Policing Board and District Policing Partnerships in holding the police to account.

He also cited the new code of ethics and the role of the Oversight Commissioner Tom Constantine, in overseeing reforms.

Meanwhile, SDLP chairman Alex Attwood said the key issue was how representative the new service would be.

He said: "The real number that counts is those who actually join-up.

"And those who join-up are representative of the community."

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See also:

25 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
'Positive approach' to policing urged
23 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Recruits sought for NI police service
16 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Flanagan move to close policing 'gap'
20 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Body urges Police Bill rethink
24 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
'Deadline' over NI policing impasse
26 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Huge response to police campaign
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