Belfast Telegraph

Derry policing body 'not running scared of dissidents'

By Donna Deeney

A policing body set up to replace the District Policing Partnership has denied it is running scared of dissidents after it refused to commit to holding public meetings.

The new Derry Police and Community Safety Partnership (DPCSP) was set up last June and has met twice since then.

But both meetings took place behind closed doors and neither members of the public nor the Press were allowed in.

The secrecy has led to calls for greater openness and transparency.

The former chairman of the DPP and DUP member of the DPCSP, Councillor Drew Thompson, insisted it was in no way hiding from dissident republican who forced the abandonment of many DPP meetings in recent years.

A group of protesters stormed into the Guildhall blowing whistles and throwing stink bombs on one occasion. On another, protesters clashed with police guarding Da Vinci’s Hotel in Derry where the DPP was meeting to discuss pedestrian and cycle safety.

While the DPP was obliged to hold six of its meetings in public each year, this was left out of the rules governing the DPCSP when it took over.

Mr Thompson admitted he didn’t know the reason for the omission but was adamant it was not out of fear of any protests.

He said: “The Community Safety Partnership has only met twice since it was set up last June so it is early days, especially for new members who are still settling in.

“I’m not sure why there is no stipulation about meeting in public as there was with the former DPP but I’m sure there will be, at some time, themed meetings that the public will be able to attend.

“We held a number of such meeting around different issues which were very well attended in the past with the old Community Safety Partnership and I have no doubt there will be meetings in the future which will have the police in attendance.”

Civil rights activist and political commentator Eamonn McCann said ensuring the meetings were open to the public was a priority issue to be addressed.

“All the political representatives in the Stormont Executive claim to believe in openness, transparency and accountability — it is almost their mantra — yet this is the latest example of how it’s just phrases and words to them,” he said. “I would say this is an important issue and there is a real urgency to address it and get these meetings open to the public.

“I would also want to know why, for what reason have they been closed to the public.”

A spokeswomen for Derry City and Strabane District Council explained any possible public meeting would be at the discretion of the PCSP.

She said: “A public meeting can be called at the discretion of the Partnership members to discuss an issue of major public interest. The new Partnerships were only constituted at the end of June 2015 and to date they have held a PCSP meeting in July and a PCSP Policing Committee Meeting in September.”

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