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SDLP are out of law & order; Ian laughs off suggestions that the police should patrol with no guns while Gerry has a giggle at Adair and Co.

Byline: IAN PAISLEY JNR

THIS week the SDLP launched its latest strategy on policing. The whizkids at SDLP headquarters thought long and hard about how they could underscore their newfound support for policing and the so-called "new beginning".

What did they come up with? A radical plan to disarm the police, close the police stations and ensure that whatever body is left in place ought to be majority Roman Catholic in its make-up.

Effectively the SDLP has nailed its republican colours to the mast. The prospect of an election has forced the SDLP to go native and go for something even Gerry Kelly can understand. The only people who looked more surprised by this SDLP announcement than the two governments were Sinn Fein. It was a case of "hey, give us back our ball".

The SDLP plan is unworkable - but that's not the point. The plan reveals the panic at the heart of the SDLP. The prospect of electoral meltdown has forced the SDLP to try to out-green Sinn Fein/IRA.

Last year an economic appraisal of many of the stations the SDLP propose should now close and replace with police shops in local shopping centres revealed that it was more expensive on the public purse to close, sell and then rent another premise.

Centralising policing in large stations away from the community is anti everything the SDLP told the public they supported in the Patten proposals.

The suggestion that the police should move to a position where they are routinely unarmed really takes the biscuit.

While a cuddly unarmed police service is acceptable in Disney World, in this crime-ridden society it would be just plain stupid.

In what bubble is Alex Attwood the principle author of SDLP policing policy living?

Does he not realise that disarming and reducing the ability of the police to protect society is a threat to his own people?

The SDLP is guilty of betraying its own community. Many Catholics were relieved that at last one of their political parties was doing the right thing for a change - supporting the police.

But this week the SDLP pulled the carpet of self-confidence away from under its own community. The reaction of most decent Catholics must be one of confusion. If and when Gerry Kelly eats his words and comes on to the Police Board, far from standing up to Sinn Fein on policing, the SDLP will follow in Sinn Fein's wake.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 31, 2003
Words:405
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