THE TUV and UUP have slammed Sinn Fein ministers at Stormont for blocking the successor to the Serious Organised Crime Agency from operating in Northern Ireland.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) is due to begin operations across the UK this year, having been described as the “British FBI”. It will have powers to order police forces to run operations into drugs and trafficking. It will also take in the work of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), the national cyber crime unit, border policing and economic crime.
TUV leader Jim Allister said yesterday: “True to form, Sinn Fein in the Executive has vetoed approval for a legislative consent motion to permit the National Crime Agency to operate in Northern Ireland.”
He said that “it appears Sinn Fein would rather have organised crime operating in south Armagh and elsewhere than the NCA”.
And the UUP’s justice spokesman Tom Elliott said: “It is an absolute disgrace that Sinn Fein is blocking the operation of the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland.
“I raised the matter with the Justice Minister at Stormont today but his answer was less than satisfactory and he merely confirmed that no agreement had been reached but wouldn’t comment on who was holding matters up.”
A Sinn Fein spokesman confirmed they had vetoed the new agency from operating in Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan confirmed the party would continue to block the draft Westminster legislation for the National Crime Agency at the Executive.
The West Belfast MLA said: “Under the draft Westminster legislation the National Crime Agency (NCA) would not be accountable to the normal mechanisms negotiated over the last number of years.
“Sinn Fein will continue to seek to have the legislation amended as we clearly recognise the imperative of co-operation between different agencies to combat organised crime.
“However, the primacy of the PSNI in combating organised crime, indeed all criminality, is paramount in addition to the need for all agencies to be accountable to the accountability mechanisms already put in place.”
The Department of Justice said it could not comment because Executive matters are confidential.