Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: No merit in bid to block police body

The establishment of a new FBI-style body to combat organised crime including the drugs trade and people trafficking makes perfect sense.

It could create a body with the resources and expertise to take on the crime godfathers and relieve pressure on hard-pressed regional police forces like the PSNI. Unfortunately the SDLP and Sinn Fein do not take that view and are blocking plans for the proposed body to operate in the province. Their claims that the body would not be accountable in the same way as the PSNI is something of a smokescreen.

The two parties cannot accuse and criticise unionists for backsliding on the spirit of the Belfast Agreement and then do exactly the same on policing. Crime does not recognise any boundaries and to leave Northern Ireland without the expertise of a national body for purely political expediency is a woeful state of affairs. There is no great surprise that Sinn Fein should take this attitude but the SDLP has always professed to be a party of law and order and should unchain itself from its republican counterpart.

There is no political merit in the SDLP's attitude even from a selfish point of view. It will never be seen to be as hardline as Sinn Fein and can hardly expect to steal any votes from the republican constituency. But it could appeal to broadminded nationalists who put the safety of people here and the rule of law above petty political bargaining. Instead of outright opposition, it should concentrate on ensuring that the new body is accountable for its actions here.

But perhaps the politicians of all hues will have better news for the Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, next week when they consider his plea for another 300 officers. It is ironic that the man brought in to normalise policing here should find himself heading a force under increasing pressure from organised crime, loyalist protesters and dissident republicans, as well as ordinary policing duties. He now realises that we have an imperfect peace here and the Policing Board should be sympathetic to his demand.

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