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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 07:03 GMT
Children attend policing protest
Police patrol
DPPs discuss local policing priorities
Children were involved in a republican protest at a meeting on policing in Belfast which had to be abandoned, it has been claimed.

The meeting of the south-Belfast sub-committee of the city's district policing partnership was taking place in the Markets area of Belfast.

Chairman Pat McCarthy, of the SDLP, said about 20 republican protestors holding placards disrupted it.

He said there were children present ranging from 10 to 15 years old.

"It was particularly targeted at myself and the two Sinn Fein councillors on the DPP," he said.

"I'd asked the council officers who service the DPP committee what they thought and they told me that it was the worst protest, demonstration, they had ever witnessed and they were a bit apprehensive," he said.

"Because of it I decided to call the meeting off."

Mr McCarthy said that he was "jostled" before calling off the meeting.

The PSNI's area commander, Michele Larmour, said she was "deeply disappointed" by the events.

"Being part of the DPP gives us the opportunity to answer questions and to address issues raised by residents from the local area," she said.

This was as much a protest against us as a party engaging with policing as it was against the police
Alex Maskey
Sinn Fein

"It is disappointing that we have been unable to do that this evening but we look forward to having the opportunity to do this again."

Policing Board chairman Des Rea said everyone has the right to peaceful protest "but the behaviour displayed at tonight's meeting was unacceptable".

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Alex Maskey was in the audience.

"Some of them (the protesters), would have been former Sinn Fein supporters, some would never have supported Sinn Fein," he said.

"This was as much a protest against us as a party engaging with policing as it was against the police.

"We have a mandate from people in the Markets to engage, but I feel it was a mistake to organise a meeting without talking to people in the local community."

DPPs operate as sub-committees of local councils, advising on policing priorities and holding police commanders in their areas to account.

The partnerships fall under the auspices of the Policing Board, which holds the PSNI as a whole to account.

In January, Sinn Fein voted to back the PSNI for the first time, with party representatives taking their seats on the Policing Board for the first time in May.

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