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Friday, 15 September, 2000, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Peace process 'at risk' over policing
Seamus Mallon and David Trimble - White House meeting
Seamus Mallon and David Trimble differ on policing issue
Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon has said the Good Friday Agreement would be placed in jeopardy if the British Government continued to "minimise" proposals to reform the police.

Speaking in New York, Mr Mallon said the recommendations of the independent commission headed by Chris Patten needed to be implemented in full to avoid undermining the political process.

The deputy first minister arrived in the US with First Minister David Trimble earlier this week. Both men met President Bill Clinton on Wednesday and are understood to have discussed the policing issue.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor has criticised Mr Mallon's comments, describing them as "agressively nationalist".

In Friday's address to the influential National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Mr Mallon said it was not too late for the government to "embrace the fulsome implementation of Patten's proposals".

"Neutral name and symbols needed" - Seamus Mallon
He said while the Police Bill purported to implement the Patten report fully, "all too often it had minimised and even obstructed the letter and spirit of Patten's reasonable recommendations".

"Serious faults remain, faults that strike at the heart of Patten's proposals, faults that the British Government must put right."

He said the "whole police reform project could founder" if the government continued to "minimise Patten".

He added the whole Agreement could be put in jeopardy as a result and asked if Secretary of State Peter Mandelson wanted "to have played his part in that".

"Government by consent depends on policing by consent - the two cannot be divorced."

The deputy leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party referred to a number of key areas of concern which he identified as differences between the Police Bill currently making its way through Parliament and the Patten report.

Among these he listed the need for a neutral name to replace the Royal Ulster Constabulary title and neutral symbols.

The rights of nationalists found in the Agreement cannot be dispensed through the filter of unionist approval or disapproval

Seamus Mallon
The Newry and Armagh MP said the people who needed to be convinced in this debate were not "just the SDLP" or Sinn Fein or the Catholic Church.

"It is above all those young nationalists , often deeply suspicious of the police - who are the jury in this matter.

"It is they who will whether to take the historic step and join up."

Mr Mallon acknowledged the implementation of the Patten reforms would cause difficulty for unionists but said nationalists had the right to "parity of esteem" under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement which "was overwhelmingly approved by referendum throughout the island of Ireland".

"The rights of nationalists found in the Agreement cannot be dispensed through the filter of unionist approval or disapproval."

He highlighted a number of other concerns, including the power of the new Policing Board and the role of the Police Ombudsman as well as the need for "effective oversight" of policing reform.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader, John Taylor
John Taylor: Unionists do not support the Patten reforms
Mr Mallon's comments drew criticism from Ulster Unionist MP John Taylor who said the reforms proposed in the Patten report breached the terms of the Good Friday Agreement because he believed it was not supported by both sides of the community.

"I'm very concerned at the aggressive nationalist stance of the Deputy First Minister on this matter," he said.

"It appears there is growing evidence to suggest that Mr Mallon is trying to exact some sort of vindictive symbolic victory over the RUC that the IRA in 30 years could not achieve."

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See also:

15 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
United front cracked over policing
15 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
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Mandelson offer to Irish police
07 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
US committee discuss RUC reform
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