[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Police Board to be reconstituted
PSNI officers on patrol
The Policing Board holds the PSNI to account
The Northern Ireland Policing Board will be reconstituted next year, the secretary of state has said.

Peter Hain told the House of Commons the d'Hondt formula would be used to appoint members in April next year.

Mr Hain said this would mean 4 DUP members, 2 SDLP, 2 UUP and 2 Sinn Fein. But he said Sinn Fein had "expressed no intention" of joining the board.

The DUP had called for the board to be reconstituted to reflect the party's success in the 2003 assembly elections.

Mr Hain said: "I accepted the arguments... that the DUP was in an unfair situation and that the present composition of the board - its political section - did not reflect the last assembly elections."

He added: "It is vital that community balance is maintained. I don't know if Sinn Fein are going to come onto the board.

"They have expressed no intention of doing so, but if they want to get involved in devolved government... they will have to take their responsibilities for policing seriously, including going on the board."

Unlike the SDLP we did not jump too early on to a policing board which is unable to hold the PSNI to account
Michelle Gildernew
Sinn Fein

DUP leader Ian Paisley said he welcomed the decision to reconstitute the board.

The current members had made a valuable contribution in dealing with thorny issues on policing, he said.

"I trust that the minister will not reduce the number of political appointees at this particular time."

Amending legislation

SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said his party had reservations about the reconstitution of the board before the return of devolution.

However, the West Belfast assembly member said his party had also been told that Sinn Fein's seats on the new board would go to nationalists if they were not taken up.

"This means that the Patten agenda is strong and secure and the numbers for change on the board will increase," he said.

"The Policing Board has stood strong for Patten and stood strong for change. With increased nationalist representation that will continue to be the case.

"The DUP attempt to use the board as a sword against Patten and the chief constable has not succeeded."

Ulster Unionist Party Policing Board member Fred Cobain said the DUP had "negotiated away the unionist majority on the board".

'Greed'

"So much for DUP negotiating skills. In their haste and greed to have a DUP majority on the board they have helped the government agenda to facilitate Sinn Fein's entry to the board by stripping away its unionists majority," he said.

Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew said the government had given a commitment to bring forward further amending legislation next year and her party needed to see the detail of that.

"Unlike the SDLP we did not jump too early on to a policing board which is unable to hold the PSNI to account and went on to ratify the purchase of new plastic bullets in direct conflict with previous public commitments from that party," she said.

Meanwhile, the secretary of state said when the legislation for on-the-run paramilitaries was ready, MPs could scrutinise it and make any necessary amendments.

"This is not an amnesty. An amnesty would mean that, as it were, in advance people who committed offences were released ever from the obligation of being punished for those offences... they will be subject to the process of the law."




SEE ALSO:
DUP seeks Policing Board changes
08 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland
Police reform 'needs new support'
27 Sep 05 |  Northern Ireland
Policing Board tenure 'extended'
02 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Policing Board man slams the DUP
17 May 05 |  Northern Ireland


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific