Sinn Fein demands change to policing plans

 

Policing reforms must be renegotiated before republicans will back them, Sinn Féin warned the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, today.

The party has refused to support revised plans for policing in the North and Northern Assembly member Mr Gerry Kelly branded the British government's Implementation Plan for Policingas "unworkable".

It was "incapable of providing for the new beginning to policing promised by the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

The SDLP last week decided to support the plans.

But Mr Kelly said: "If nationalists and republicans are to take the massive historic leap that is required to sign up to policing then the British government cannot pull down the shutters on negotiations - not unless it doesn't want a deal."

Mr Kelly, speaking at a republican Hunger Strike rally in Cork, welcomed comments from Dr Gerrard Lynch, one of the authors of the Patten Report on Policingwho, he said, had expressed dissatisfaction with the latest plan.

The Sinn Fein policing spokesman said: "Dr Lynch focused his criticism on two fundamental areas, the powers of the Policing Board and the failure of the Implementation Plan to require that all members of the new service take the human rights oath."

The oath was of crucial importance, he said. It was felt necessary by Patten because so many serving RUC officers had taken oaths to the Orange Order and other loyal institutions.

There is also growing opposition to the policing plans amongst unionists. Hardline Ulster Unionist MP, Mr Jeffrey Donaldson yesterday called for his party to join with the Democratic Unionists to boycott the planned Policing Board.

Unionist leader Mr David Trimble is to return from holiday this week and party leaders are expected to decide their attitude to the policing plan at a meeting at the end of the week.