Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Friday, 28 May 2010 17:34 UK

Sinn Fein warns chief constable in ex-priest case

Vincent Kearney
By Vincent Kearney
BBC Northern Ireland home affairs correspondent

Kevin Kennedy
Kevin Kennedy said he was stunned by his suspension

Sinn Fein has warned it will review its level of co-operation with police if the chief constable does not resolve a dispute with a former Catholic priest.

Kevin Kennedy was forced to resign from a civilian job with the policing board because he failed a security check.

He has been a civil servant for over 25 years and has no criminal record.

Mr Kennedy is suing the PSNI after being told he could not work for the board because of information the police said they had about his brother.

Mr Kennedy was appointed as a policy and research officer with the Policing Board in 2004.

Just two weeks later the former Catholic priest was told to resign or be sacked because he had failed the security clearance check.

Last month, he failed in a legal bid to get access to the intelligence documents on which the police based their security assessment.

During the court hearing, it was revealed that the board was told Mr Kennedy failed the vetting because of historical and recent intelligence regarding his brother, Dermot, which was assessed as reliable and accurate.

The court was told the intelligence was highly senstive and a matter of national security.

Six years on, Kevin Kennedy is suing PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott for damages - and Sinn Fein has called on Mr Baggott to act to resolve this.

'New era'

Sinn Fein, which joined the policing board three years ago after a long internal debate, has warned that it may withdraw co-operation with the police in nationalist areas if the matter is not resolved quickly.

Alex Maskey, Sinn Fein, said: "What we bring is the co-operation of tens of thousands of people and that should not be squandered.

"I presume it won't be, but it is down to the chief constable to make sure people we represent understand that we have moved into a new era.

"Cases like this are examples of how we have not yet finalised the work of ending political policing, and we have got to do that."

The policing board and the PSNI have said they cannot comment on the issue as it is the subject of ongoing legal action.

It is likely to be raised during a meeting of the policing board next week.

Sinn Fein is not threatening to withdraw from the policing board over this issue, but withdrawing cooperation from the police in nationalist areas would have serious implications for a relations that has taken a long time to build.

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