[Sinn Fein]

26th March 2003

SDLP Challenged on Policing Legislation

Responding to comments made in todays Irish News by SDLP spokesperson Alex Attwood on the issue of new policing legislation, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said:

`` This new legislation is welcome and is the outworking of three years of hard work and negotiation by Sinn Fein. This included Weston Park and the commitment by the British government to amend the original Policing Act in addition to the progress made in the current negotiations. This work is not yet finished. Crucial issues such as plastic bullets, representativeness the future of the Special Branch, and the transfer of powers on policing and justice are the focus of continuing deliberations.

`` Alex Attwood comments are not surprising given the fact that the SDLP told us before Weston Park that amending legislation was not possible - yet it was delivered and more recently they told us again that new legislation was not possible - yet again it has been delivered. Had the SDLP held its nerve and not settled for less than Patten then perhaps we would have achieved the new beginning to Policing by now.

`` Nevertheless, our objective remains a police service which is civic, democratically accountable and which reflects the goals set in the Agreement. We have made progress on this over recent years, and especially in the current negotiations. More needs to be done and this remains a priority for Sinn Fein in our ongoing discussions with the two governments.'' ENDS

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