[Sinn Fein]

12th December 2001

British government must return to `new beginning on policing'

Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has said that the past two weeks have highlighted the deficit between the British government's plans for policing and the Agreement's requirements for a new beginning to policing.

Mr. Maskey said:

``Sinn Fein's fundamental problem with the current policing arrangements lie in the unaccountability of the police force and the powers of both the Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan and the partisan political control of the British Secretary of State. Democratic accountability is rendered impossible by this combination.

``The Ombudsman's Report highlighting unacceptable practices by the Special Branch is damning and highlights this fundamental problem.

``The unacceptable reality of all this is that the Special Branch still remains a force within a force and is accountable to no one but the Chief Constable. Responsibility for this state of affairs rests entirely with the British government, which refuses to create effective mechanisms for democratic accountability. The British government must return to the new beginning on policing as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement. Recent events have clearly underlined the need for this.'' ENDS

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