31 March 2006

Empey challenges British govt on policing deal


31/03/2006 - 12:10:21

Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey challenged the British government today to reveal any secret deal with republicans on policing.

With his party still to declare if it will take its seats on the reformed authority that scrutinises the force, he warned that a full answer to his allegations could be critical.

The new Policing Board will meet for the first time next week, but the involvement of the UUP’s two representatives, MLAs Danny Kennedy and Fred Cobain, is not yet guaranteed.

The party was incensed when Northern Secretary Peter Hain reconstituted the body with political members outnumbered by independents, claiming it had become an unelected quango.

Empey suspects it may be part of a strategy to smooth Sinn Féin’s passage onto the 19-member authority once the party ends its boycott of Northern policing arrangements.

He refused to be drawn on whether his party would quit in protest, but demanded immediate answers.

“We believe there has been some deal done, probably last summer and probably involving the government and Sinn Féin,” he said.

“At this stage we haven’t been advised of that and we want to know (about it).

“We have had no rational explanation from the secretary of state why he's changed the goalposts, and done so in a manner without any consultation with the people who have been loyal partners in the policing process.

“We find it intolerable and that’s one of the key things we have to consider.”

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