Orde urges Sinn Fein to engage in policing
Sinn Fein was today urged to play its full part in policing in the wake of the British government's demilitarisation plans for Northern Ireland.
Following Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain's announcement that the Government aims to reduce troop levels in the province to 5,000 soldiers and defortify police stations over two years, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde confirmed work will begin this week on the removal of an observation post at Divis Tower in Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams's West Belfast constituency.
But he added the scheme would take some time to complete.
With the security normalisation moves following hard on last Thursday's IRA announcement that it has ended its armed campaign, Sir Hugh, who meets Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy at Hillsborough today with Mr Hain, urged republicans to overcome their opposition to policing institutions in the province.
"Every community in Northern Ireland has a right to be policed," he argued. "In a democratic society policing is at the heart of the structures which facilitate respect for rights and duties within that society.
"I do not believe therefore that anybody who espouses the values of justice, equality and human rights can continue to legitimately deny their community the right to remedy wrongs done to them by seeking the protection of the police.
"Policing is a public service which should be available to all members of the public and public representatives have a positive obligation to facilitate us in being available to their public.
"We have a right to expect that Sinn Fein politicians will now engage directly, openly and constructively with District Commanders and all officers at local level."
Sir Hugh said since the Police Service of Northern Ireland replaced the Royal Ulster Constabulary, his officers had been increasingly delivering a more normal style of policing.
"Substantial changes had already been made to policing on the ground as well as the appearance of our police stations and vehicles.
"This has been driven forward by police at the front end who are keen to engage with the community in order to facilitate better delivery of policing right across Northern Ireland," he said.