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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Paisley holding back on policing
First recruits to new service will be on streets in Spring 2002
First recruits to new service will be on streets in Spring 2002
DUP leader Ian Paisley has said his party is still not ready to accept the Northern Ireland Secretary's invitation to join the new Police Board.

On Monday, John Reid wrote to the DUP, Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Sinn Fein telling them he wanted their decisions by Thursday on whether they would endorse the province's new police service.

The four largest parties all have the right to nominate members - 10 in total - to the 19-member Police Board.

The board will have powers to hold the chief constable to account.
Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley: "We still have concerns on some important matters"

Dr Reid said he wanted the parties to nominate their representatives to the board by the end of the week.

The nine non-political members are currently being appointed.

The first batch of between 260-300 Police Service of Northern Ireland trainees - selected on a 50% Catholic 50% Protestant basis - will begin training in October and be on the streets by spring 2002.

However, so far only the nationalist SDLP has agreed to nominate members to the Police Board, therefore accepting the government's plans on how it will implement the changes to policing.

DUP 'concerns'

On Tuesday evening, Mr Paisley said his party still had a number of concerns.

Ulster Unionist leader
David Trimble is discussing policing plans with his party
He said: "We still have under negotiation matters concerning the Police Board, the full-time reserve and the working environment.

"And many of these are very crucial matters."

It is planned that the reserve will be eventually phased out as part of the reforms to policing, which have been modelled on the recommendations of the Patten Commission on the Future of Policing.

Last week and this week, Mr Paisley met the Northern Ireland secretary three times jointly with David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

Ulster Unionists meet

On Tuesday night, Mr Trimble met his assembly team, MPs and party officers to debate the UUP's response to the Police Board invitation.

The meeting at the party's Belfast headquarters followed talks between the UUP assembly members and MPs at Stormont on Monday.

Jeffrey Donaldson:
Jeffrey Donaldson: "We are putting pressure on the government"
In an interview on Monday, Mr Trimble said "progress" had been made in the talks with Dr Reid, but he refused to say whether his party was ready to join the board.

The controversial issues of the police badge and flag still have to be decided on and the police board is to have a role in recommending suitable symbols.

Speaking before he went into the meeting, hardline MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: "We want assurances that no-one with a terrorist background will be involved in policing.

"We are also pressing the government hard on issues like the symbols and the name of the police."

Last month the government published its revised plan for implementing the changes to policing in the Northern Ireland Police Act as part of a package of proposals aimed at finding an overall resolution to the issues blocking the political process.

Sinn Fein is the only party which has so far rejected the policing plan outright.

The party said it did not bring the legislation into line with the recommendations of the Patten Commission.

Political impasse

Policing is one of the main issues blocking the Northern Ireland's political process.

The parties have until midnight on Saturday to reach a deal over policing, IRA decommissioning and British Army demilitarisation before Dr Reid must again decide what action he will take to prevent the collapse of the Stormont executive.

The 22 September deadline was imposed nearly six weeks ago following the 24-hour suspension of the power-sharing government by the secretary of state.

The situation was discussed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern at a breakfast meeting on Wednesday.

If the parties do not reach a deal, John Reid could opt for an open-ended suspension of the institutions followed by a review, or opt for a second short suspension of the assembly.

DUP motion defeated

Either option would avoid the total collapse of the Stormont government. It is thought the British and Irish governments have now discounted the other option available under current Northern Ireland legislation, which would be to call an assembly election.

This, they feel, would only deepen the impasse between the parties and make finding a resolution more difficult.

Meanwhile, the DUP failed on Tuesday to gain support for an assembly motion to exclude Sinn Fein from the executive because of the IRA's failure to disarm.

However, an SDLP amendment, backed by the Ulster Unionists, calling on "all paramilitary groups to give real effect to the decommissioning provisions of the Good Friday Agreement" was carried by 54 votes to 35.

See also:

18 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
'Upbeat assessment' of policing plan
20 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Catholic bishops back policing plan
30 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Unionists split over policing support
12 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Unionists discuss policing with Reid
12 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Police recruitment 'will be 50:50'
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