Parties urged to throw SF off Policing Board

A meeting of the Policing Board in June 2015
A meeting of the Policing Board in June 2015

MLAs should consider boycotting the Policing Board over the presence of Sinn Fein members, a victims’ campaigner has said.

In the midst of the deepening political crisis over the IRA’s continued existence, Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United suggested that other parties must now mull over whether to continue attending the board as long as Sinn Fein remains on it.

He was speaking as the Ulster Unionists officially endorsed leader Mike Nesbitt’s recommendation that the party withdraw from the Stormont Executive, following the PSNI’s assessment that PIRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan – something which Mr Nesbitt said had “shattered trust” in Sinn Fein.

The TUV’s leader Jim Allister hailed the Ulster Unionists’ move at the weekend, and said: “Now that the UUP has done the right thing, it’s over to the DUP.

“Are they going to license the IRA to kill again by turning a blind eye to murder and clinging to office with the Provos’ political wing?”

The DUP reacted by stating that “cool heads” were needed in response to the crisis, not “knee-jerk” reactions.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said the UUP move will “not stop us from representing our electorate”.

Yesterday, Mr Donaldson suggested that the focus on Sinn Fein’s presence at Stormont has obscured the fact that it remains present at the Policing Board.

He noted that Sinn Fein board members Pat Sheehan and Gerry Kelly are convicted IRA men, and asked: “How on earth can a Policing Board continue to meet with members present whose party is wedded to a terrorist organisation which is under investigation and scrutiny?”

Sinn Fein has strongly denied that the IRA still exists in the wake of claims that some of the group’s members helped to kill Mr McGuigan.

Mr Donaldson, whose group Innocent Victims United acts as an umbrella organisation for an estimated 11,000-plus Troubles victims, said those on the Policing Board are “effectively the bosses of our police service”.

He said the DUP, UUP, Alliance and SDLP should seek Sinn Fein’s removal from the board “whilst the PIRA’s structures remain”.

However, if this is not possible, they should “withdraw their members forthwith”.

Asked about whether the SDLP would back this proposal, Dolores Kelly, the party’s sole board member, said: “Not at this stage. I think our party is still of the view that there is still some speculation, and that we’d need to have greater caution around these things.”

Reacting to the UUP’s decision to walk out of the Executive, Mr Kelly said Mr Nesbitt had “abdicated his responsibilities to the people who voted for his party and disenfranchised large swathes of unionism”.

Asked yesterday if the DUP could follow suit and quit the Executive, Ian Paisley Jnr said: “I think the public expects Sinn Fein to be punished, not unionists.”

Asked if he could envisage the DUP still in government with Sinn Fein by Christmas, the North Antrim MP said: “There’s all sorts of things I can envisage, but we have to take it a step at a time.”