First DPP meeting in west Belfast

Republican traditionalists are planning to mount a protest against this week’s first ever meeting of the District Policing Partnership (DPP) in west Belfast.

The meeting on Thursday will mean Sinn Féin will be working with the PSNI police in local policing matters in the strongly republican area for the first time.

But hardliners opposed to the use of British police forces in Ireland have said they will protest outside the complex.

Speaking on Tuesday, PSNI critic and veteran republican Marian Price said she would “gladly” take part in any protest.

“Talk of protests doesn’t surprise me because nothing has changed with the PSNI. They are still the RUC,” she said.

“If asked, I will go along to a protest because I, like so many others, don’t want the RUC/PSNI in my area.”

On Monday night a republican demonstration forced the South Belfast DPP to abandon a meeting in the Markets area.

Protesters jostled DPP members as they tried to get into the local community centre. Fearing for their safety, the PSNI cancelled the meeting.

Concerned that there will be a repeat of events in West Belfast next week, DPP chiefs are now believed to be considering venues other than Beechmount Leisure Centre.

Belfast DPP Chairman and Sinn Féin councillor Michael Browne insists protests will not prevent his party taking their seats on the board.

He said: “People have a right to protest, the thing they have to bear in mind is that the overwhelming majority of people in West Belfast want to see their elected representatives involved in DPPs.

“What I would encourage protesters to do is, instead of just standing outside with their placards, tell us what you believe the alternative to be. Should we abandon West Belfast to criminals or do we attempt to use the structures in place to improve things?”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News