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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Unionist threat to policing board
Dr Reid has vowed to push through police reforms
The Ulster Unionist Party could pull out of the Northern Ireland Policing Board next month if parliament approves more reforms to policing in the province, a senior party MP has warned.

Speaking from the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Tuesday, David Burnside said the secretary of state had under-estimated the depth of unionist feeling.

"The unionist community is not going to stand by and allow a further weakening of policing in the province. They will not tolerate further concessions to the SDLP and Sinn Fein," he said.

On Monday, Secretary of State John Reid promised to press ahead with further legislation on police reform despite pressure from the Ulster Unionists to halt the process.

David Burnside: Anti-Agreement UUP MP
David Burnside: Warned government not to push through further police reforms

Dr Reid said he stood by the policing implementation plan agreed at Weston Park last year and indicated that the principle of 50-50 recruitment of Catholic and Protestant candidates for the police would continue.

However, the anti-Agreement MP said if the government forced through any further reforms, unionists would act.

"I think you have to only look at what has happened as a result of the Patten reforms to see just why - the fall-off in police numbers, the decimation and demoralisation of our police, gangsterism rampant in society," said Mr Burnside.

"Labour may think it can use its parliamentary majority to force these 12 legislative changes through but unionists will not continue to co-operate with the Policing Board."

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.

Police reform

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.

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.

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

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