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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Reid 'to proceed' with police reforms
Dr Reid has vowed to push through police reforms
Plans to press ahead with further legislation on police reform in Northern Ireland have been promised by the secretary of state.

This is despite pressure from the Ulster Unionists to halt the process.

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool on Monday, John Reid said he stood by the policing implementation plan agreed at Weston Park last year.


The SDLP have shown a great deal of courage and leadership in trying to resolve what is a generations old problem

John Reid
NI secretary

He indicated that the principle of 50-50 recruitment of Catholic and Protestant candidates for the police would continue.

Dr Reid also discussed the political situation with SDLP leader Mark Durkan.

It is understood Mr Durkan raised his concerns that unionists were trying to slow down further policing reforms.

Dr Reid reassured the SDLP leader that the government intended to stick to its current path.

"The SDLP have shown a great deal of courage and leadership in trying to resolve what is a generations old problem in Northern Ireland and to form a new representative policing service," Dr Reid said.

"The implementation plan, which I outlined last year after discussion with all of the parties... is the basis on which I will proceed and I told Mark Durkan that."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has threatened to withdraw support for the power-sharing executive by January next year unless the IRA proves it is committed to peace.

First minister David Trimble: Threatening to collapse power sharing executive
First minister David Trimble: Threatening to collapse power sharing executive

Unionists are unhappy with many elements of police reform, particularly the recruitment policy which is regarded as being discriminatory towards Protestant applicants.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland came into being on 4 November 2001 as part of sweeping reforms to the service under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

A new uniform, and symbol were also introduced as part of the reforms.

Sinn Fein is the only party in the province which refuses to endorse the new service.

The party has also refused to nominate members for the Northern Ireland Policing Board because it believes present structures and reforms fall short of the Patten report.

Support

The 19 member policing board, which includes politicians from the UUP, SDLP and DUP, along with independent members, was set up to hold the service to account.

Earlier this month, a BBC survey found that three quarters of Catholics support recent police reforms in the province compared to less than half of Protestants.

In a section of support for Northern Ireland policing reforms in the past two years, 55% of all respondents gave their support with 75% of Catholics and 43% of Protestants giving their backing.

Just under 40% of Protestants opposed the package, with just 12% of Catholics questioned declaring opposition.

When asked if reforms meant police were more or less effective at tackling crime, 21% of people said "more effective".

That support was from only 15% of Protestants and 32% of Catholics.

Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

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OTHER SPECIAL REPORTS
See also:

27 Sep 02 | N Ireland
26 Sep 02 | N Ireland
02 Sep 02 | N Ireland
31 May 02 | N Ireland
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