A furious row erupted between the PSNI Chief Hugh Orde and Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey at a public meeting of the policing board on Thursday amid rising fears over a crime wave in nationalist west Belfast.
Criticism that the PSNI has effectively abandoned republican areas has increased in recent months following two brutal murders by roaming gangs of violent youths in west Belfast.
Other issue causing concern include an increase in organised crime and an unprecedented mob attack by loyalists on Castle Street in the west of Belfast city centre this week.
A survey this week confirmed that less than half of nationalists believe the PSNI police is doing an acceptable job.
Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey warned the PSNI Chief Hugh Orde was alienating the nationalist community following his comments at yesterday’s Policing Board meeting.
Orde used the meeting, held in the board’s Claridon Dock headquarters in Belfast, to attack Sinn Féin over what he said was “unfair and inaccurate” criticism of the PSNI.
He denied officers had failed to act on intelligence ahead of the murder last month of west Belfast man Frank ‘Bap’ McGreevy.
He also denied that the PSNI had prior information of planned attacks by loyalists who mounted a mob knife attack in Belfast’s Castle Street on Saturday.
Orde claimed he had requested a meeting with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams to voice his concerns.
“That meeting needs to take place as soon as it possibly can,” he said.
After a heated exchange across the room, the PSNI Chief said he did not “intend to withdraw my remarks because I stand by them”.
“Broad statements saying my force is not up to it merits a response from me as I believe my force is up to it.”
Speaking after the meeting Mr Maskey said Mr Orde was in “danger of setting back community relations”.
“Gerry Adams has met with Hugh Orde on a number of occasions and there are more meetings scheduled in the near future so to imply there is some problem in securing a meeting is inaccurate,” he said.
* Nine people in west Belfast have been threatened by men claiming to represent a splinter republican organisation following accusations of their involvement in anti-social behaviour.
A number of the men have since left their homes in fear of attack by the Irish Republican Liberation Army (IRLA).
The IRLA is reported to have emerged following a split from the Continuity IRA last year, although its origins and motivation remain unclear.