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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 11:10 GMT
Unionists 'will be driven off boards'
Northern Ireland Policing Board
District Policing Partnerships will work with Policing Board
Unionists will be driven off Northern Ireland's new policing boards by allowing former paramilitary prisoners to sit on them, Ian Paisley has warned.

The Democratic Unionist leader said the government had got the party to sit on the boards under "false pretences, under a false promise".

The government is to establish 26 District Policing Partnerships (DPPs) early next year, including local councillors and independent members, to help provide local policing accountability.

Last week, it published the proposals in two separate draft legislation documents - with the clauses removing the disqualification of ex-prisoners from the local policing boards in just one of the texts.

DUP's Ian Paisley:
DUP's Ian Paisley: "False promise by government"

The government has repeatedly called on the paramilitary groups to disarm, end their activities and disband, and this latest move was seen as a measure intended to step up pressure on the IRA and loyalists.

Further changes to policing legislation have been a key demand by Sinn Fein during talks on the deadlocked political process.

Despite changes including 50% Catholic recruitment aimed at making the historically Protestant-dominated force acceptable to the whole community, Sinn Fein has said the programme of reform has not been radical enough.

'Real unionists'

The nationalist SDLP has also been calling for further changes. But unlike Sinn Fein, which has refused to take its seats on the Policing Board, the SDLP endorsed the new Police Service of Northern Ireland following the changeover from the Royal Ulster Constabulary last November.

Changes to policing were promised by the government during the Weston Park talks last July, and most recently in the Queen's speech earlier this month.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Mr Paisley said the move was "obnoxious" to people in Northern Ireland.


The important thing is that despite these difficulties there has been progress - Northern Ireland today is a better, more peaceful place than it was

Jane Kennedy
Security minister

The North Antrim MP warned the government: "You will drive unionists, that are real unionists, out of the police boards."

He said ministers had given a false promise which they were not going to deliver on.

"This matter goes to the very root of the problem in Northern Ireland," Mr Paisley said in a DUP-sponsored debate in the Commons on Monday.

He also condemned Sinn Fein's continued inclusion in the Northern Ireland Assembly and dismissed as a "colossal falsehood" that "we really were at peace in Northern Ireland".

'U-turn'

Security Minister Jane Kennedy told MPs the suggestion that the situation was as bad now as it had ever been was "not true".

"The important thing is that despite these difficulties there has been progress. Northern Ireland today is a better, more peaceful place than it was," she said.

"Transformations can be slow but they do happen."

The minister said the process to establish the policing partnerships was well advanced and they should be able to hold their first meetings in February.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Quentin Davies said the government had completed a "180 degree u-turn" on the policies it had introduced under the 2000 Policing Act.

The DUP motion opposing "offering non-elected convicted terrorists places on district police partnerships" was defeated by 292 votes.

A government amendment welcoming "developments in policing" was carried without a vote by Deputy Speaker Michael Lord, despite a DUP protest.

See also:

25 Nov 02 | N Ireland
25 Nov 02 | N Ireland
17 Nov 02 | N Ireland
05 Nov 02 | N Ireland
24 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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