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EDITIONS
Monday, 29 April, 2002, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Cross-border police deal signed
Officers will be able to move between forces
An agreement aimed at improving cross-border co-operation on policing has been signed by the British and Irish governments.

The deal was signed at Stormont on Monday by the Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid and Irish Justice Minister John O'Donoghue.

Among the measures agreed is a scheme for the movement of officers between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Irish police, the Garda Siochana.

A joint annual conference on policing has also been set up.

Northern Ireland secretary
John Reid: Deal will improve effectiveness
Dr Reid said the agreement was a significant step in implementing the changes to policing recommended in a report by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten in 1999.

"This is the first step in the creation of more formalised links between our two police services," he said.

"There will be opportunities for the movement of officers between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana, on both a temporary and permanent basis.

"Reciprocal secondment and exchange arrangements will be introduced," said Dr Reid.

Oath

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist Lord Kilclooney said he was concerned over the movement of personnel between the two forces.

"It would mean that gardai who have taken only one oath, namely to faithfully serve the Republic of Ireland and its constitution, would either be in control of the police of Northern Ireland or patrolling the streets of the Shankill Road, Sandy Row or Newtownards," he said.

"That's unacceptable, they would have to take a new oath."

John Taylor wants new oath for gardai
The governments are drawing up plans for improved communications between the two forces and will co-operate on disaster planning and training.

They are also hoping the new arrangements will improve effectiveness in crime detection and prevention on both sides of the border.

'Working together'

The move was welcomed by the Chairman of Northern Ireland's Policing Board, Professor Desmond Rea.

"Since ordinary and organised crime and terrorism knows no borders, the sharing of knowledge, information and expertise is critical.

"Working together is essential if the police, in both jurisdictions, are to succeed in the fight against these types of crime," he said.

The lateral movement of officers between the two forces had been a key demand by the SDLP during negotiations before the party joined the Policing Board.

SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said the deal was further evidence of a new beginning to policing.

"Greater co-operation between the police services is essential internationally and it is now being developed way beyond other exchange agreements involving the PSNI and Garda," Mr Attwood said.

Sinn Fein has so far refused to take its seats on the Policing Board. The party says the reforms to policing do not go far enough.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's political correspondent Mark Simpson:
"Both governments said they have acted for security and not political reasons"
Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

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OTHER SPECIAL REPORTS
See also:

05 Apr 02 | N Ireland
27 Mar 02 | N Ireland
05 Apr 02 | N Ireland
19 Sep 01 | N Ireland
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