06 April 2006

Rea is re-elected board chairman


The Policing Board holds the PSNI to account
The newly constituted Northern Ireland Policing Board has re-elected Sir Desmond Rea as its chairman.

The vice-chairman will be the prominent businessman Barry Gilligan. He replaces Denis Bradley who stepped down a few weeks ago.

Members have been attending a two-day induction programme in Limavady. They are to appoint committees and their chairs and vice chairs on Friday.

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

Asked about claims that a nationalist should have been elected chairman, Sir Desmond Rea said he believed he had drawn support from both identities in the community.

"I'm very gratified about that, simply because I have sought over the past four years to seek to interpret the mind of the board to the wider community."

He said it was important that every part of the community was policed, that recruits were drawn from every part of the community and that they could "go back and visit their parents" in safety.

Sir Desmond said Sinn Fein's refusal to take its places on the board was a matter for "wider politics".

However, he added: "The fact that Sinn Fein is not on the police board creates a vacuum that the dissidents can play their games in and its sends a very powerful signal to the whole of the community."

Last month, outgoing vice chairman Mr Bradley said the next chairman "should be a nationalist".

In his outgoing speech last month, deputy chairman Mr Bradley said he looked forward to the day when the background of the board chairman 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".

Mr Bradley also predicted that Sinn Fein would take its seats on the board in the autumn.

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