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15 February 2001 Edition

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Move on policing or stay at home

BY MICHAEL PIERSE

Amid speculation that Tony Blair is to visit the Six Counties this week to advance the ongoing negotiations, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said that unless there is movement from the British Government on policing, the British Prime Minister might as well stay at home.

``Thus far, even though there has been some limited progress in recent days, there has not been enough progress to allow nationalists and republicans and those of us who want a new beginning to policing, to be able to embrace the type of proposals that the British are putting together,'' the Sinn Féin President said.

Adams added that the talks have been the most intensive he has experienced since those immediately prior to the Belfast Agreement, almost three years ago.

``Policing is not the only issue we are concentrating on,'' he said, ``but it certainly has been the main focus of our discussions. This does not mean the other matters have been resolved. On the contrary, there is a lot of work to be done.

``No one who wants a genuine new beginning to policing could agree to the current proposals from the British Government, because there is no reasonable certainty that they will achieve that objective.''

Meanwhile, a high profile recruitment campaign for Britain's proposed new Six-County police force was axed on Tuesday, three days prior to its official launch.

The `50/50 recruitment campaign' was set to run with a series of TV adverts across Ireland and Britain, followed by a series of job advertisements in newspapers. Its cancellation is expected to cost the NIO hundreds of thousands of pounds.

RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan announced on Tuesday that the ``full blooded campaign'' is being held back, ``in the hope that support from nationalists, republicans and the Catholic church will be forthcoming''.

However, he added that ``the delay can only be for a short duration, given the pressures brought about by natural retirement and the take-up of the Patten severance arrangements''.

Sinn Féin Árd Comhairle member Gerry Kelly, speaking on Tuesday - a day after the twelfth anniversary of the killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane - said that ``young nationalists need to know that in any new policing service there will be no more collusion''.

Kelly, along with families who have suffered from loyalist pipe-bomb attacks and intimidation, met with the 26-County Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen in Dublin last week. He said that the issue continues to be a cause of serious concern in nationalist and republican areas.

``There is a concerted sectarian campaign across the North to drive Catholic families out of some areas,'' said Kelly. ``They have reached a particular intensity in North Belfast and Larne. Over several weeks we have seen some 50 attacks - mostly carried out by the UDA - and there is no sign of them abating. This is a pogrom, designed to drive Catholics out, heighten tensions and undermine the political and peace process.''
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