16 September 2005

Unionists 'to withdraw from DPP'

BBC


Policing partnerships are meant to help the police work with locals

Unionist members of Belfast District Policing Partnership have withdrawn in protest at the police handling of recent violence in loyalist areas.

Rioting has affected parts of Belfast since trouble broke out at the disputed Whiterock Orange parade on Saturday.

In a statement, the unionists said the partnership with police had collapsed, particularly in west Belfast.

They accused west Belfast PSNI Chief Superintendent David Boultwood of not engaging with the unionist community.

He had "used his influence to reroute the Orange Order's Whiterock parade", they claimed.

The unionists said they would be seeking a meeting with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde early next week to express their concerns.

The city councillors and members of the DPP who put their names to the statement were Robin Newton, Elaine McMillan and Ruth Patterson, DUP; Ulster Unionists David Brown and Jim Rodgers; Independent Unionist Frank McCoubrey and Hugh Smyth, Progressive Unionist Party.

They said they intended to keep their position in relation to the DPP under review.

Policing Board chairman Professor Sir Desmond Rea said he had not yet been formally told of the DPP withdrawals.

"DPPs exist in part to monitor police performance - the most important way to do that is to engage," he said in a statement.

DPPs are made up of councillors and residents who work with the police.

Forum

The decision that unionists should withdraw from the Belfast DPP was made at a meeting of the North and West Belfast Parades and Cultural Forum on Thursday night.

Alliance Party assembly member Naomi Long, a member of the south Belfast DPP, said the withdrawal was a "fruitless and immature display".

"I am absolutely dumbfounded by the lack of leadership and integrity which we are seeing within unionism in the face of what has been some of the most serious rioting and disorder that we have seen on our streets in recent days," she said.

Ms Long said that the commitment of unionist politicians to the defence of the police and to the rule of law and order was "just tactical, superficial and skin deep".

District policing partnerships were set up across Northern Ireland under reforms initiated by a commission headed by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten and implemented by the government.

The partnerships are made up of councillors and members of the local community, who work alongside the Police Service of Northern Ireland's 29 District Command Units in trying to meet local community policing needs.


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