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Saturday, 18 August, 2001, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
'Upbeat assessment' of policing plan
The SDLP says further consideration is needed
The parties have been asked to respond by Tuesday
The nationalist SDLP has said the government has acknowledged many of the party's concerns in the new policing implementation plan.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme, the party's policing spokesperson, Alex Attwood, refused to say whether his party would sign up to the new policing board.

However, he gave an upbeat assessment of some of the changes contained in the plan.

Secretary of State Dr John Reid published the 75-page plan on Friday, which outlines in detail changes to be made to the Royal Ulster Constabulary as it is transformed into the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Its aim is to redress the gap between the current policing proposals and the 175 recommendations made by the Patten Commission on the future of policing nearly two years ago.

Alex Attwood:
Alex Attwood: "SDLP will make judgement in the round"

Dr Reid has asked the parties to let him know by midday on Tuesday whether or not they are prepared to sign up to the new policing board.

"Many of the SDLP concerns that led to us putting down amendments on the floor of the House of Commons 12 and 13 months ago have now been acknowledged by the British Government," said Mr Attwood.

"The British Government is indicating that following a review they will amend legislation to releglislate consistent with what the SDLP originally set.

"In relation to implementation matters, the British Government has acknowledged all of the concerns.

"In some of those issues they have moved some of the way, on other issues they have moved more of the way and we have to make a judgement in the round."

However, Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin repeated his party's opposition to the new arrangements.

"We are not refusing to take up our responsibilities," he said.

Mitchel McLaughlin
Mitchel McLaughlin: Rejected the plan

"What we are refusing to take part in is a sham that pretends that something like the spirit or the essence of Patten is good enough.

"We want the reality, we want the substance of Patten."

The Ulster Unionist Party criticised the SDLP for "cherry-picking" over the revised plan.

Ulster Unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon said the party remained concerned about a number of issues.

What new plan proposes

  • Subject to the security situation, non-renewal of contracts for the full-time reserve - but only after the first recruits have completed their training in 2002.

  • Recruiting 2,500 people for part-time reserve within three years - conditional on community support. First trainees could start training early in 2002.

  • The title Police Service of Northern Ireland should be used for all operational, working purposes and contractual purposes - but use of title will be kept under review.

  • Policing should be the core function of the police service and the core function of every police station.

  • Policing boards will be set up next month.

    'Detailed response'

    William McCrea of the Democratic Unionist Party said his party would consider the document and give a detailed response.

    The RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said he hoped the document would be well received.

    Policing is one of the issues currently causing the impasse in the Northern Ireland political process, which is threatening the future of the institutions.

    None of the main pro-Agreement parties have fully accepted the package and Dr Reid suspended the assembly briefly at the weekend, to trigger a second six-week talks period.

    Since the publication of the Patten report, the SDLP and Sinn Fein have refused to sign up to the new police service.

    BBC NI's political correspondent Martina Purdy:
    "The secretary of state has asked the parties to sign up to policing by next Tuesday"
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