15 March 2006

UVF-linked appointee puts Hain in spotlight


(Sharon O'Neill, Irish News)

The appointment of a UVF-linked politician to the Policing Board put Secretary of State Peter Hain under the spotlight again last night (Monday).

The shock nomination of Progressive Unionist Party representative Dawn Purvis comes despite repeated warnings about UVF paramilitary activity.

Criticism of the PSNI watchdog emerged soon after the names of 19 new members were unveiled.

Ulster Unionists have threatened to boycott the board after political representation was reduced to eight.

The number of independents has risen from nine to 11, including two with SDLP or UUP links.

But the appointment of Ms Purvis, an unelected loyalist politician, was the most controversial.

Last September the UVF's ceasefire was officially declared over after it was linked to murder, sectarian attacks and serious rioting.

Mr Hain said at the time: "It makes it absolutely clear to the UVF and everybody associated with it that they've got to stop this, they've got to find a political way forward."

Since then a number of dossiers by the Independent Monitoring Commission have stated that the UVF remains an "active, violent and ruthless organisation".

New UUP board member Danny Kennedy said the party would seek clarification from Mr Hain about Ms Purvis's appointment.

SDLP assembly member John Dallat, who sits on Coleraine District Policing Partnership, said: "It illustrates the insensitivities of [government] who haven't given any thought to the ongoing activities of the UVF and don't have

any sensitivities towards ordinary people trying to change policing."

Mr Hain was also criticised last month following the appointment of Portadown Orangeman Don MacKay to the Parades Commission after it emerged that Mr MacKay had supplied the name of a nationalist politician as a referee without consulting her.

Ms Purvis hit back at criticism, saying she would report UVF members linked to criminal investigations to police.

"The principles and practices of my party are not alien to the principles of the Policing Board and an effective and efficient police service. I would be totally opposed to violence and criminality of any sort," she said.

Sinn Féin, which has refused to nominate to the board, said membership was not the issue.

"The key for us is that the Policing Board has failed to hold police to account," a spokesman said.

The DUP, which has objected to any Sinn Féin representation on the board, said members must be "free from terror and criminality".

In the House of Commons last night Mr Hain defended Ms Purvis's appointment, saying she had been "highly recommended".

"Dawn Purvis performed extremely strongly in the interviewing process in front of a panel which had an independent member on it," he told MPs.

March 15, 2006

This article appeared first in the March 14, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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