[Sinn Fein]

29th August 2002

Durkan clutching at straws on Policing

Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has accused the SDLP leader Mark Durkan of `clutching at straws' in his bid to convince people that the SDLP have made the right move on policing. Mr. McLaughlin's comments come after Mr. Durkan today claimed Sinn Fein were `playing both sides of the policing debate'. Mr. McLaughlin said:

``Sinn Fein's position on policing is very clear. We will not sit on the Police Board provided by the current Police Act. The current Policing Act subverts and dilutes the Patten threshold. We have continued to work with the British government and others to seek amending legislation to bring the Act into line with Patten. We will continue to do this.

``After this engagement by Sinn Fein the British government have publicly accepted that they have not met the Patten threshold and agreed to bring forward amending legislation. Mark Durkan is now also accepting that the Patten threshold has not been met and there is a need to amend the legislation. Sinn Fein awaits the publication of this and will study it in detail. If it fails to meet the threshold of Patten in the key areas of accountability, freedom from partisan political control and human rights provision then membership of the Policing Board will continue to be a futile exercise.

``The fact that the SDLP continue to meet with the British Security Minister on the partisan policing of interface areas and other related matters shows an acceptance that after a year on the Policing Board the real control and power still rests with the British government and NIO.

``No amount of clutching at straws by Mr. Durkan can alter the fact that SDLP membership of the Policing Board while the PSNI continues to brutalise nationalists in interface areas, while it maintains it's Special Branch and while it continues to increase its use of plastic bullets is causing immense unease within the grassroots of his own party. It is in this context that his comments today must be viewed.''

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