Page last updated at 19:28 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 20:28 UK

Libyan post 'useful for police'

Ian Paisley Junior
Ian Paisley Junior approved the transfer of PSNI officers to Libya

Ian Paisley Junior has defended approving a secondment request for PSNI officers to train Libyan police.

Earlier his DUP party colleague, Nigel Dodds, said whoever approved the move was "living on a different planet".

During the Troubles, Libya supplied guns and explosives which the IRA used to kill police officers.

Mr Paisley said if his colleague had been aware of the background he would not have made the comments and there were benefits to the UK from the move.

"In an adult world you don't have to be a genius to work out why it would be useful to have a senior officer, who has got intelligence skills, to look at Libya and to examine that country and to look at the facts that surround that country and to bring that information back to us," he said.

"It would have been very churlish from our point of view, being aware of all of the facts that I can't go into in total detail... whenever we know that other material came in the opposite direction as a result of Libya trying to help."

Mr Paisley was the chair of the Policing Board's Human Resources sub-committee when it was asked to approve the move in 2008.

The DUP MLA said he had not had the "ultimate power" to send the officer to Libya but had to send the application to the NI Secretary of State for consent.

He said it was a "much wider" issue involving the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the PSNI.

Responding to the comments made by Mr Dodds, he said if the information had been put to him "the way it was put to Nigel this morning on BBC Radio Ulster" he "probably would have reacted the same way".

"The fact of the matter is I am aware of all the facts surrounding this particular application," he added.

Mr Paisley said he was disappointed at the reaction of some Policing Board colleagues to the news that he had approved the secondment request.

"You get this information and you treat it with confidence and you treat it like an adult and some of the comments I heard from other Policing Board colleagues today have just quite frankly been immature," he said.

The request for the secondment came in December 2008.

However, because the request fell between meetings of the Human Resources sub-committee, protocol dictated that the chair of the committee, Mr Paisley Junior, approve the decision himself.

The Northern Ireland police officers are seconded to the UK's National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

The BBC has seen a copy of a letter from the Policing Board to the Northern Ireland Office in December 2008.

The appointment was subsequently confirmed by the Secretary of State.

A PSNI officer (left) and a Libyan police graduate
Whoever made that decision, whoever thought that was the right way to proceed, must be living in a different world and different planet
Nigel Dodds

Police said a chief inspector/temporary superintendent spent a number of days in Libya last November to assess training needs.

Based on his recommendations, an inspector was part of a tactical command course between 12 January and 2 February.

The NPIA website lists Superintendent Kevin Smith - who has served as a police officer in Northern Ireland for 24 years - as having arranged training for Libyan officers in Libya and the UK.

It also has details of a PSNI sergeant taking part in a training event for Libyans at the national police training centre in Bramshill in November 2008.

'International deployment'

Some relatives of IRA victims have renewed their attempt to receive compensation from Libya following the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Libyan man Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds is involved in that process.

He said it was "totally inappropriate and offensive" that PSNI officers were selected to provide training "given the very recent history of what the Libyans have done in terms of the annals of terrorism in Northern Ireland".

"Whoever made that decision, whoever thought that was the right way to proceed, must be living in a different world and different planet," he added.

TUV leader Jim Allister said approving the move showed "utter disregard to the history and deep sensitivities felt over Libya".

"Given the magnitude of this gaffe I would call on Nigel Dodds to join with me in calling on Ian Paisley Junior to resign from the Policing Board," he said.

However, former British ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles, said the training move was not unexpected.

The NPIA said officers from a range of UK police services have trained the Libyan police in response to a request for support from the Home Office and the British Embassy in Tripoli.

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