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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 12:48 GMT
Unionists warning on policing concessions
The Northern Ireland Policing Board
The DUP and UUP both sit on the Policing Board

The Ulster Unionists and the DUP have warned the government to think long and hard before making what they see as concessions to republicans as part of new legislation on policing.

The government confirmed its intention to press ahead with the legislation in this week's Queen's Speech, but has yet to reveal the precise details.

The planned legislation is expected to be published within the next fortnight.

The DUP's Sammy Wilson, who is a member of the Policing Board, said a move to allow convicted terrorists to take places on district policing partnerships, would undermine those who have already signed up.

Jeffrey Donaldson MP UUP
Jeffrey Donaldson voiced concerns
The partnerships will monitor and oversee the police at a local level.

A recruitment campaign is under way to find people willing to sit on the bodies.

Current legislation enables councillors to take seats, irrespective of their criminal record but it prevents unelected former paramilitary prisoners being appointed.

The Ulster Unionist MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, reminded the government of the decision by his party's ruling council in September that their nominees should be withdrawn from the Policing Board if the rules governing district partnerships were changed.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster of Friday, he said: "If they believe that what we agreed in September unanimously at the Ulster Unionist council has been turned on its head secretively, without the party being told about it, then I would say to the government that that is an illusion."

Patten report

The question of paramilitaries joining the partnerships is a key concern for Sinn Fein, who have referred to the new legislation as a 'litmus test' for the process.

The party says the disqualification of those with convictions is not in line with Patten report on policing reform and should be removed.

The government is understood to be prepared in principle to make the move.

But it has been held back until republicans indicate their readiness to buy into the new policing structures in Northern Ireland.

It is thought the new legislation may grant enhanced powers to the Policing Board and the Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan.

However, the question of changing the rules for District Policing Partnerships still appears to be conditional on an overall assessment of Sinn Fein's intentions.

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The UUP's Jeffrey Donaldson:
"The government is labouring under an illusion"
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