07 October 2005

Sinn Fein urged to back policing


Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern is addressing conference

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern has put pressure on Sinn Fein to endorse policing in Northern Ireland.

It came as he paid tribute to the vice-chairman of the Policing Board who was violently attacked last month.

Mr Ahern said Denis Bradley's story was one of "courage and heroism" and he said it was "no time for any party to shirk its responsibility".

He was speaking at a conference in Derry, organised by the SDLP, on north-south co-operation.

Mr Ahern later met Mr Bradley, who was beaten with a baseball bat in a Derry bar, later on Friday.

"I have forcefully condemned the attack on Denis. His story is one of courage and heroism," he told the conference.

"He has paid a high price for his commitment to a fresh start in policing.

"The right thing now is for all sections of the community to follow Denis' example and participate in the task of forging a new policing service."

Mr Bradley, a former Catholic priest, was attacked as he watched a football match on television with his son. He was taken to hospital with a head injury.

The assault was blamed on dissident republicans who have threatened his life and attacked his home on previous occasions.

Mr Ahern also paid tribute to the SDLP, saying its support for policing had been brave.

"I have met with many of those involved, including District Policing Partnership members here in Derry and I applaud their contribution in opening up a new era for policing in Northern Ireland," he said.

Sinn Fein has resisted giving the PSNI, the Policing Board and other institutions its support, insisting more legislation is needed before they can sign up.

Meanwhile, Mr Ahern has also reaffirmed the commitment of the Irish and British governments to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and their desire to see the devolved institutions revived.

While he claimed the "completion" of IRA decommissioning had the potential to unlock the political stalemate, he also called on loyalist paramilitaries to follow suit.

The minister said cross-border co-operation had a vital role to play in the delivery of a competitive all-Ireland economy which could generate jobs, provide better public services and bring lasting prosperity.

The SDLP, for its part, argued that the suspension of the assembly should not be allowed to block progress in terms of north-south co-operation.

It pointed to the need for all-Ireland co-operation in assets recovery from criminals, a sex offenders register, and environmental protection.

The SDLP also argued that investment in infrastructure of about 100 billion euros over the next 10 years needs to be planned in a coherent way.

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