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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Policing row boils over at meeting
Cars were set on fire at an SDLP member's home
SDLP homes have been attacked in recent months
Derry City Council was adjourned for 20 minutes on Tuesday night after a row over policing between the nationalist SDLP and Sinn Fein.

It happened as the council passed an SDLP motion condemning hoax bomb attacks on members of the party.

Sinn Fein refused to support the motion because it did not specifically condemn recent search and arrest operations by the police in Londonderry as "human rights abuses".

Searches took place in republican areas following a break-in at the Belfast headquarters of the Police Service of Northern Ireland on 17 March.

Issues raised

The police said IRA involvement was a main line of inquiry in the investigation.

But following heated exchanges in the chamber on Tuesday night, SDLP councillor Sean Gallagher accused Sinn Fein of being "undemocratic".

"Consensus politics is fine up to the point when the minority know that the majority views at some time have to be taken on board," he said.

"But according to Sinn Fein in Derry, and I stress only in Derry, they are raising issues that are raised nowhere else.

"Their own members are sitting down and doing this business in other council areas.

"So it begs the whole question: What is the hidden agenda about Derry that Derry council's business, for the first time in its history, is being disrupted?"

After the vote, Sinn Fein accused the SDLP of "valuing the lives of public representatives above those of ordinary citizens".

Sinn Fein councillor Maeve McLaughlin accused the SDLP of creating a "hierarchy of victims".

She said there had to be an equal playing field in terms of human rights abuses.

"We have completely condemned any attack on elected representatives houses, but equally we cannot exclude what has happened in this community over the last number of weeks and months," she said.

Reforms

In recent months, there have been a number of attacks on the homes of SDLP members.

Earlier this month, petrol bombers targeted the County Tyrone home of SDLP assembly member Eugene McMenamin.

Two cars were also destroyed in the attack.

Mr McMenamin blamed the attack on republicans opposed to his support of his party's decision to back policing reforms and take its places on the new Policing Board.

The SDLP, Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party have endorsed the changes to policing following the changeover from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Only Sinn Fein has refused to support the new service.

See also:

19 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
IRA files 'list Tory members'
06 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
Officers warned of greater terror risk
12 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Home of SDLP man targeted
04 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
SDLP member's home targeted again
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