Irish Republican News · October 16, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Concessions to DUP ‘might not be enough’

The British government is to reconstitute the North’s Policing Board next April to give the DUP more seats, and is also to provide Ian Paisley’s party with new British Lordships.

Speaking in the London parliament, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain said he intended to appoint the political members of the board according to party electoral strength in the assembly.

Under the d’Hondt formula, that would mean that the DUP would have four seats, with two each for Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists and the nationalist SDLP.

The move would also mean the election of a new chairman and vice chairman of the Policing Board.

The DUP has been pressing for the reconstitution of the board, claiming the current composition does not reflect its increased support.

The DUP is the biggest party in the assembly but currently has only three members on the present board compared to four for the Ulster Unionists and three for the SDLP. Calling for further policing reform, Sinn Féin has refused to take its seats.

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew said the announcement by Mr Hain would have no impact on ongoing efforts by her party to ensure there was “the new beginning” to policing demanded by the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Hain in early August said that in the interests of “continuity and stability,” the life of the current board, with its 10 political and nine independent members, would be extended for up to a year until October 2006.

However, he has now yielded to unionist pressure on the issue, and was accused of delivering “sweeties” to the DUP by SDLP leader mark Durkan.

The British government is also expected to announce soon the first DUP Lords, with Eileen Paisley, wife of the DUP leader, among those to receive the ermine robes in the London parliament’s House of Lords.

The concessions are a first response to a 64-page document of demands presented by Paisley’s party to Tony Blair at a Downing Street meeting last week.

Among the DUP’s other demands are: a generous severance and training package for locally recruited British Army soldiers affected by demilitarisation plan, changes to the Parades Commission, and a financial package for Protestant neighbourhoods.

But the DUP’s Gregory Campbell has warned these concessions might not be enough for the party to consider sharing power with Sinn Féin.

Cryptically demanding concessions “which make a difference”, he claimed there was now a level of “almost inherent bias against unionism”.

“It is this bias that needs tackling, culture, employment, education, minority Protestant recruitment to the police, EU funding are just a few of the areas that need resolving, not just agreeing to have them addressed.

“Important and justifiable as any additional appointments might be to the Policing Board, and to the House of Lords if they come, they do not even begin to address the disadvantage and marginalisation felt by our community.

“It is when measures are implemented which make a difference that political progress becomes a realistic and lasting proposition, rather than belatedly making up numbers for the largest political party in Northern Ireland.”

Sinn Féin equality and human rights spokesperson Caitriona Ruane rejected Mr Campbell’s claim of a “bias against unionists”.

“Across every single indicator of poverty and deprivation the fact is that nationalists fare worse than unionists,” she said.

“Yes, there has been progress for nationalists and Sinn Féin is committed to further advancing the equality agenda. Yes, there are deprived unionist areas and Sinn Féin is committed to combating that.

“But the fact remains that in employment, housing, and ill health that the reality for nationalists is worse.”

  • Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionists has also said it will boycott the Policing Board if the British government refuses to reallocate any seats Sinn Féin may not take up to unionists.

    With speculation that the British government would try to keep any seats Sinn Féin may refuse in nationalist hands by allocating them to independent members, UUP leader Reg Empey said this was unacceptable.

    “This is a crisis in the making. We will not serve on a quango. If this proposal goes ahead the UUP will not sign up to the board.”

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    © 2005 Irish Republican News