[Sinn Fein]

16th January 2002

Sinn Fein challenge SDLP to explain position

Speaking at a Policing Conference in Cookstown this morning Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly challenged the SDLP's Alex Atwood to explain why his party was forced to meet with the British government to attempt to get action to deal with the loyalist killing campaign, if the Police Board could as they had claimed hold the police force to account. Mr. Kelly said:

``Crucially this police force is not accountable to the community and on critical issues is outside the control of the Policing Board. This much has been implicitly acknowledged by the SDLP meeting with the British Security Minister this week to `express their exasperation' at the lack of action being taken to curb the loyalist killing campaign.

``Why did the SDLP have to do this when they sit on the Policing Board? Why is this necessary when we were told that the Board could summon the Chief Constable to discuss anything to do with policing? Quite simply because the power is still retained by the British government over these matters and not subject to the democratic accountability of a Policing Board as envisaged by Patten.

``The reality is that the Policing Board does not have the powers required to ensure that the police force is democratically accountable; does not have the powers to investigate their abysmal response to the intensive and concerted UDA pogrom of the past ten months and to get to the bottom of the reasons for this. Accountability has been carefully written out of the policing equation.

``Partisan political control continues to be exerted by the securocrats in the NIO and the former RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan. The baleful influence of the Special Branch and their relationship with the UDA remains intact. What we have is a repackaged RUC.

``For all of these reasons and more Sinn Fein will not join the policing board and we will take the opportunity at our meeting with Richard Haas on Thursday to again set out our concerns and seek his help in moving the British government back to the objective for policing set down in the Good Friday Agreement.''ENDS

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