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24 July 2003 Edition

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US government to fund PSNI training

The US House of Representatives has voted in favour of government funding to train both the PSNI and the Gardaí.

It is the first time either of the two houses of Congress has voted to allocate such funds and, once passed into law, the measure will authorise the US government aid agency USAID to fund the training of both forces and encourage inter-force co-operation.

In the past, Congress had resisted funding the RUC and PSNI due to human rights concerns, but the amendment, which was introduced by New York Congressman Joe Crowley this past week, was not debated and was passed without controversy.

The Bill will allow USAID to provide "computer-based, human rights and other professional training" to the PSNI and the Gardaí "for the purposes of fostering greater co-operation and communication" between the two forces.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing, Gerry Kelly, expressing his disappointment at the decision, said acceptable policing is still a work in progress.

"While this is a well meaning attempt to advance the goal of an acceptable policing service, the reality on the ground is that the benchmark has not yet been achieved, because the British government choose to dilute the Patten proposals," says Kelly.

In 1999, the US halted the funding of FBI training for RUC officers in the wake of controversy surrounding the killings of lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. The ban was lifted in 2002 but it was announced that any officers going to train in the US would be vetted to ensure they had no link to the Finucane case.
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