28 October 1999 Edition

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RUC-DHSS checkpoints challenged by Sinn Féin

SINN FÉIN Assembly member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Gerry McHugh, held a meeting on Monday 25 October with Department of Health and Social Security officials to demand an end to joint DHSS and RUC checkpoints in the area.

The issue first came to light a week earlier, when McHugh received a number of complaints from people in his constituency who were stopped and questioned by joint RUC-DHSS checkpoints at Derrylin, Wattlebridge and Lisnaskea. DHSS officials have no legal right to stop and question people.

McHugh said that the people who had complained to him described how armed RUC officers had pulled people over so that DHSS officials could question drivers about their personal movements and places of work.''

The Assembly member added:

``The DHSS have to publicly explain why they are working hand in hand with a force that is known to have given over files on people's movements and personal details to loyalists. The RUC are not and never will be an acceptable police service.''

After his meeting with the DHSS, Gerry McHugh said:

``The DHSS maintain that they have a duty to detect fraud. However, the way to do this is not to frighten and intimidate people who are simply going to their place of work. Any credibility that the DHSS has will very quickly be lost in the eyes of the public if they continue to mount these joint checkpoints.

``These checkpoints are of no benefit in detecting fraud as the DHSS have no legal power to stop and question anyone about their movements or place of work. Indeed this was confirmed to me during the meeting.

``I have been given assurances that the department will re-examine this practice in light of the concerns from the public.''

If readers know of any similar instances then they are asked to report them to their local Sinn Féin centre.

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