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Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Warning over RUC reform bill
Police on patrol
There is division over proposed policing reforms
Sinn Fein has warned there is a crisis looming over the future of policing in Northern Ireland which could have the potential to unravel the peace process.

It said the Policing Bill, which passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons this week, was unacceptable and needed to be amended.

The Bill followed the publication of a report by the Independent Commission on Policing headed by EU Commissioner Chris Patten last September.

Both sides of the community in Northern Ireland have their concerns about it - unionists think it goes too far, and nationalists argue that it is a dilution of the Patten recommendations.

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams: Government has moved a huge distance away from Patten report
There were 75 changes that needed to be made to the Bill to get it back in line with the Patten Report proposals for a new policing service for Northern Ireland, said the party.

Party president Gerry Adams said Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Mandelson had a "huge distance" to cover if he was to implement Patten, and indications that it would be amended were not good enough.

Speaking on Saturday in Dublin where he was attending a party executive meeting, he said: "I am not persuaded at all by the protestations of the British Government and Peter Mandelson.

"They have moved a huge distance away from the Patten recommendations and they still have a huge distance to cover to get back to them."

"Unless this happens any hope of having a fair policing service will become nothing more than an aspiration."

Earlier on Saturday, speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme, party colleague and assembly member Gerry Kelly also spoke about the Policing Bill.

He said: "There is a crisis, a real crisis. As this Bill stands, who could ask a nationalist, or what nationalist would decide, to join such a policing service?"

Mr Kelly added: "We have a large obstacle to get over. This is very fundamental, a touch-stone issue for the whole Good Friday Agreement and for moving out of conflict."

Criticism over committee make-up

He said the Bill as it stood was "absolutely the wrong Bill to do it with".

Mr Kelly said: "Patten was a compromise. What is happening now is that you have Patten and people are looking for another compromise somewhere away from Patten."

Asked if the issue had the ability to unpick everything achieved he said: "It does have the potential to do that."

But he insisted: "I am not saying that in any scaremonger way", and added "let's try to get it right".

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist MP, William Ross has criticised the make-up of the House of Commons committee set up to examine the Bill.

The 20-strong committee includes two Ulster Unionist MPs and two from the SDLP.

After the Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons this week, Irish Premier Bertie Ahern flew to London this week for private talks with Tony Blair, then flew right back to Dublin.

Seamus Mallon, deputy leader of the nationalist SDLP and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, has warned that he would withdraw support for policing reforms if crucial changes were not made to the Bill at the committee stage.

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Tories fail to block RUC Bill
06 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
RUC Reform: What the Bill says
09 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: The Patten report
06 Jun 00 | UK Politics
RUC Bill changes unveiled
04 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
RUC reform pressure steps up
19 Jan 00 | RUC Reform
RUC changes at a glance
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