Minister for Foreign Affairs meets with the Northern Ireland Policing Oversight Commissioner, Mr Al Hutchinson, and his Chief of Staff, Mr. Mark Reber
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern T.D., today met in Dundalk with the Policing Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland, Mr Al Hutchinson and his Chief of Staff Mr Mark Reber. The Minister was briefed on the forthcoming 13th Policing Oversight Report, which is due for publication on 9 June 2005.
The Minister welcomed the very positive progress identified by the Commissioner across a broad range of areas recommended for reform by the Independent Commission on Policing in 1999.
“The new beginning to Northern Ireland policing envisaged by Patten and the other members of the Independent Commission is being realised through the hard work and determination of the Policing Board, Chief Constable, District Policing Partnerships and the Police Ombudsman to name but a few. They all deserve our thanks for their efforts to date in working to achieve a representative and community based police service”.
The Minister noted the Oversight Commissioner's assessment that much of the Independent Commission's intent, with regard to the recommendations made, has now been achieved. The Minister was particularly satisfied by the continuing attraction of Catholic recruits to the police service, which has resulted in the catholic composition doubling to almost 18% since 1999. However, the Minister also drew attention to the areas that remain to be fully implemented on the policing agenda.
“It is important to maintain the focus on issues such as civilianisation of the PSNI and the normalisation of the police estate. There is a need to ensure that the success of the policing project as a whole is not affected by one or two outstanding issues. In this regard I welcome the continued involvement of the Oversight Commissioner, and the extension of his mandate up to May 2007”.
Reflecting the concern of the Oversight Commissioner with regard to the continuing lack of full community support for, and participation in, the new policing structures, the Minister again repeated his call for Sinn Féin to endorse the policing reforms. “The changes verified by the Commissioner are irrefutable, and deserve recognition. It is clear that a positive step by Sinn Féin in this regard would open the door to the full realisation of community policing. Such a step is long overdue”.
The Minister concluded by thanking Mr Hutchinson and his staff for their contribution to the policing project. “The extent of change across such diverse and sensitive areas of reform is, as the Commissioner has previously said, unparalleled in the history of democratic policing reform. The Oversight Commissioner has been instrumental in this process by driving forward the reform agenda and focussing the relevant parties on issues that require continued investment”.
7 June 2005