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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Unionists 'to withdraw from DPP'
violence north Belfast
Police clear a road in north Belfast following recent violence
Unionist members of Belfast District Policing Partnership have withdrawn in protest at the police handling of recent violence in loyalist areas.

Rioting has affected parts of Belfast since trouble broke out at the disputed Whiterock Orange parade on Saturday.

In a statement, the unionists said the partnership with police had collapsed, particularly in west Belfast.

However, the SDLP accused unionists of "abdicating responsibility for law and order" by their withdrawal.

DPPs are made up of councillors and residents who work with the police.

The city councillors and members of the DPP who put their names to the unionist statement were Robin Newton, Elaine McMillan and Ruth Patterson, DUP; Ulster Unionists David Brown and Jim Rodgers; Independent Unionist Frank McCoubrey and Hugh Smyth, Progressive Unionist Party.

They accused west Belfast PSNI Chief Superintendent David Boultwood of not engaging with the unionist community.

Robin Newton DUP
DUP MLA Robin Newton said unionists sought clarification

DUP councillor Robin Newton said residents were unhappy with the decision taken by police at the Whiterock parade.

Mr Newton said they needed to seek police contact "at a higher level" to rectify the situation.

"This is not an anti-police move this is a move to seek clarification," he said.

The unionists said they would be seeking a meeting with PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde early next week to express their concerns.

SDLP deputy lord mayor Pat Convery, who chairs the Belfast District Policing Partnership, accused unionists of using it as a "political football".

"It is ironic that these unionist members sat on the DPP inquiring into the Ardoyne riot, asking about the numbers of arrests," he said.

We cannot have a situation in which DPP members dance to a paramilitary tune on policing
Pat Convery

"Yet when there is a riot in their own community, they adopt Provisional language, talking about heavy-handedness and arrogance."

Mr Convery said the North and West Belfast Parades Forum - which released an initial statement announcing the unionists' withdrawal - was a body on which unionists sat alongside loyalist paramilitaries.

"We cannot have a situation in which DPP members dance to a paramilitary tune on policing," he said.

Policing Board chairman Professor Sir Desmond Rea said he had not yet been formally told of the DPP withdrawals.

"DPPs exist in part to monitor police performance - the most important way to do that is to engage," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, two Church of Ireland bishops plan to establish a process of listening to clergy and lay people in Belfast following recent violence.

Bishop of Connor Alan Harper said they were "deeply concerned about the lawlessness and violence".

"We are also deeply concerned to understand better the issues and frustration that underlay the descent into chaos," he said.

The bishops said they rejected violence and called upon people to abide by the law.


Alliance Party assembly member Naomi Long, a member of the south Belfast DPP, said the unionist withdrawal was a "fruitless and immature display".

Ms Long said that the commitment of unionist politicians to the defence of the police and to the rule of law and order was "just tactical, superficial and skin deep".

District policing partnerships were set up across Northern Ireland under reforms initiated by a commission headed by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten and implemented by the government.

The partnerships are made up of councillors and members of the local community, who work alongside the Police Service of Northern Ireland's 29 District Command Units in trying to meet local community policing needs.

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