29 March 2006

Sinn Fein on Policing Board within months?

Belfast Telegraph

By Deborah McAleese
29 March 2006

Republicans will join the Northern Ireland Policing Board within months, it was claimed last night.

The body's outgoing vice chairman Denis Bradley said he believes that Sinn Fein will take up their seats on the board by the autumn.

However, Sinn Fein last night hit back at the comments and said that Mr Bradley has "no understanding" of the views of the republican community when it comes to the issue of policing.

Speaking after the current board's final meeting yesterday Mr Bradley told the Belfast Telegraph: "I do think Sinn Fein will join the board by the autumn. I have been more hopeful recently than I have been for quite some time.

"That is where our politics are going, it is becoming clearer by the day. There are no political reasons anymore why Sinn Fein should not join."

However, a Sinn Fein spokesman said: "Denis Bradley has said this sort of thing before. He has no understanding of where the republican community is with regard to policing. Republicans have made their position very clear in terms of transfer of power and policing."

Mr Bradley also said that the next chairman of the Policing Board should be a nationalist, but added that he is looking forward to the day when that would become a "non-issue".

He also expressed concerns about MI5 taking control of intelligence gathering, fearing it would become "a force within a force".

Current board chairman Professor Sir Desmond Rea said there is still work to be done.

"We are entering a new era, and the next Policing Board will be responsible for building on the firm foundations laid and establishing policing on an even wider community basis," he said.

"Sinn Fein have not yet supported policing, but I hope that once the politics are sorted, they will soon join with those who have been committed to the future of policing since day one."

The first public session of the new Policing Board will be held on May 3.

However, members will meet in private to elect a new chairman and vice chairman next week.

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