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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007, 02:47 GMT
Date for Sinn Fein's key meeting
Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams
Policing has been a dividing issue between the DUP and Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein leaders have agreed to hold a special conference on 28 January on whether the party should back the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Party leader Gerry Adams recommended the date at a meeting of senior members in Dublin on Saturday.

The conference was in doubt after Sinn Fein accused the DUP - its potential power-sharing partner - of not responding positively to calls for it.

The DUP says it will welcome any Sinn Fein endorsement of the police service.

The party said it was important there was evidence that Sinn Fein was encouraging communities to co-operate with the police and criminal justice system.

The DUP denies Sinn Fein claims that it reneged on a deal on devolving policing and justice powers by May 2008.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Premier Bertie Ahern have identified Sinn Fein support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as being crucial to persuading the DUP to share power in a devolved government with Sinn Fein by 26 March.

Mr Adams needed two-thirds of the 46 voting members to agree to hold the conference at the end of the month.

I am not in the business of saying one thing in private and another in public
Ian Paisley
DUP leader

Last month, Sinn Fein backed calls for the special convention or ard fheis to be held, on the basis of a positive response from the British and Irish governments and DUP leader Ian Paisley.

When the words of approval they expected from the DUP leader did not materialise, republicans began to cast doubt on whether the special Sinn Fein conference on policing would take place.

Mr Paisley said he had made no commitment which went beyond recent public statements.

However, as he prepared for Saturday's meeting, Mr Adams accused the DUP leader of reneging on a deal which would have seen him use an agreed form of words in his New Year statement responding to Sinn Fein's national executive decision.

We still need civic policing, we still need to have an accountable police service and we still need to get the power-sharing institutions in place
Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein leader

The DUP denied that it had made any commitment to Mr Blair and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, particularly on the issue of the transfer of policing and justice powers by May 2008.

"I am not in the business of saying one thing in private and another in public," Mr Paisley said.

Mr Adams said he would be urging his national executive to judge everything in the round.

"In my presentation I will put to people that we still need civic policing, we still need to have an accountable police service and we still need to get the power-sharing institutions in place," the West Belfast MP said.

"We cannot allow others to dictate the pace of change."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has accused some DUP politicians of showing "begrudgery" over recent developments in the peace process.

In an interview for Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme, Mr Hain insisted that the time had come for both Sinn Fein and the DUP to move forward.




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