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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
SDLP defend support for policing plan
SDLP is the only party to sign up to implementation plan
SDLP is the only party to sign up to policing plan
The SDLP has defended its decision to support the blueprint for reform of the police service in Northern Ireland.

A delegation met the RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, on Tuesday for the first time since it agreed to nominate representatives to the new Police Board.

Party chairman Alex Attwood said they were actively addressing nationalist concerns and said it was a new beginning with safeguards such as a code of ethics and appraisal systems for police officers.

However the Sinn Fein chairman Mitchell McLaughlin said his party would be seeking explicit guarantees from the government before it would endorse the new proposals.

"The nationalist and the republican community will make it clear," he said.


There is really no point in continuing with the failure of policing

Mitchell McLaughlin Sinn Fein

"They are not about to buy a pig in a poke.

"What they will insist on is that if the British Government were moved some distance in the past year then let us take some further time to get it right.

"There is really no point in continuing with the failure of policing."

The SDLP is the only party to have signed up to the implementation plan.

Public debate

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

After the meeting with Sir Ronnie, Mr Attwood responded to Sinn Fein calls for a public debate on the policing issue.

He said he would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter.

Mr Attwood said: "The SDLP opened up a front within Parliament, within the community and internationally to ensure that Patten was in spirit and in substance reflected in the law and in practice.

"We have now opened up as fourth front in the policing board.

"We're hitting the ground running over policing - while others are beginning to stumble."

Formal response

The Ulster Unionist Party executive is expected to meet on 1 September when its policing policy is due to be discussed.

The DUP has not yet given its formal response to the plan.

However, it has called for unity between it and the UUP over a revised policing plan.

Last Friday, Sinn Fein launched a document in which it said it had identified 20 areas of the policing plan which fell short of nationalist expectations.

Sinn Fein is to meet the British Government on Wednesday to discuss the political process.

Code of ethics

The SDLP said it raised a number of issues with the chief constable, including the general appearance of police stations, the state of the Ulster Defence Association ceasefire and recent loyalist attacks.

Secretary of State Dr John Reid published the 75-page policing plan on 17 August, 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.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
SDLP Chairman Alex Attwood:
We're hitting the ground running over policing"
Sinn Fein chairman Mitchell McLaughlin:
"The nationalist and republican community will not buy a pig in a poke"
Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

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