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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 22:55 GMT
First meeting for Policing Board
Policing Board sits for the first time
Policing Board sits for the first time
The inaugural meeting of the new Northern Ireland Policing Board has been held in Belfast.

The board, formed as part of the Patten recommendations for a new police service in the province, met in its offices at the city's Clarendon Dock.

Part of the meeting was held in public.

The new 19-member board replaces the Northern Ireland Police Authority and its role is to hold the chief constable and the police to account.

Representatives of three of the four main political parties have seats on the board.


The board is another important step into the new beginning for policing

Eddie McGrady
SDLP

The Ulster Unionist Party, the nationalist SDLP and the Democratic Unionist Party all nominated members to the board in September.

Nine independent members, including the chairman, Professor Desmond Rea, also attended the first meeting.

Professor Rea said: "Policing with the community is at the heart of the new service.

"The importance of the community accepting their responsibility to support and work in partnership with the police service cannot be over-stated."

The chairman acknowledged the role of the RUC and the importance of remembering their sacrifice.

New beginning

He said it was a "significant occasion for Northern Ireland and a significant occasion, above all, for the police who have transferred into the new service".

The board's vice chair, Denis Bradley, said the meeting "heralded a new beginning for the police".

"There is something quite big happening here - we are actually trying to move a way forward which is out of the past and into the future," he said.

Sinn Fein has refused to support the new policing implementation plan and has not taken up its two seats on the board.

They have been re-allocated - one each to the UUP and DUP under the d'Hondt system.

Eddie McGrady:
Eddie McGrady: "Important step"
PSNI Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan, who addressed the meeting, said it was "an important day".

"I see it as another very positive step in terms of the transition of policing and the development of policing in Northern Ireland," he said.

"It is my great privilege to be here today to make my first report to the board and I look forward to working in partnership with them."

The SDLP's MP for South Down, Eddie McGrady, said the new board represented "another important step into the new beginning for policing".

"The board is the central cog in the machinery of accountability to ensure policing is as Patten intended and as the community requires," he said.

Lord Kilclooney of Armagh (John Taylor) said the Ulster Unionist Party was taking part in the board on the "basis of our continuing opposition to parts of the Patten Report and its implementation plan".

At the meeting, he challenged Sir Ronnie on the issue of the ban on Remembrance Sunday wreaths bearing the RUC badge.

However, Sir Ronnie said the PSNI name would be on police wreaths in accordance with the new policing arrangements.
Ronnie Flanagan: Will address meeting
Ronnie Flanagan: Will address meeting

Lord Kilclooney also said he had tabled a motion in the House of Lords to establish what oaths people in the Republic of Ireland had taken as "it may be inconsistent with service in the new police service of Northern Ireland".

Sammy Wilson of the DUP said there was "great sadness" that the setting up of the police board sees the "demise of the RUC".

He said it was "something which we predicted, something which the Ulster Unionist Party told us would never happen and something which has now come to pass."

DUP representative Ian Paisley Junior said his party would ensure the interests of the unionist community were represented.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said the SDLP was making a mistake in "trusting the British" to change policing legislation.

He said the new beginning to policing had not yet occurred and insisting the secretary of state and chief constable retained too much power under the new arrangements.

The first batch of between 260-300 Police Service of Northern Ireland trainees - selected on a 50% Catholic, 50% Protestant basis - began training on Sunday and are expected to be on the streets by spring 2002.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Northern Ireland's Noreen Erskine:
"Ten of the 19 members of the board are drawn from the Northern Ireland Assembly"
BBC NI chief security correspondent Brian Rowan:
"Another piece of the policing jigsaw is now in place"
BBC Northern Ireland's Conor McAuley:
"The chairman acknowledged the role of the RUC"
Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

Key stories

Background

OTHER SPECIAL REPORTS
See also:

04 Nov 01 | N Ireland
29 Sep 01 | N Ireland
21 Sep 01 | N Ireland
12 Sep 01 | N Ireland
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