Another first for Ulster... Sinn Fein on the policing board
Sinn Fein finally joined Northern Ireland's Policing Board for the first time yesterday as the 19 new members gathered in private at their Belfast headquarters to elect a chair and vice-chair.
Sir Desmond Rea, who has been chairman of the Policing Board ever since it was established in November 2001, was re-elected unopposed as chairman.
He said afterwards: "It is a very significant day because for the first time we have an inclusive board. That sends a very important message to the wider community.
"Our role as a board is simply to hold the PSNI to account through the Chief Constable for the delivery of effective and impartial policing."
Belfast-based property developer Barry Gilligan - who last month joined Sir Desmond in a first meeting with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams following his party's decision to get involved in policing structures - also retained his seat as vice-chair. Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey, who is one of three Sinn Fein members to join the Board, said that yesterday was a significant step forward in ensuring the delivery of a "fully accountable and acceptable police service".
Mr Maskey is joined on the board by his party colleagues Daithi McKay (left), a North Antrim MLA, and Martina Anderson, a former IRA prisoner.