BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Adams and Durkan in TV clash

Adams and Durkan in TV clash

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and SDLP leader Mark Durkan have clashed over the issue of policing. During a live debate on the BBC's Politics Show, the two nationalist leaders disagreed over a number of subjects.

The SDLP has given its backing to the new Police Service of Northern Ireland, however Sinn Fein has so far refused to join the Policing Board and District Policing Partnerships.

Mr Durkan said: "We have been delivering on Patten in terms of the structural changes that are needed in policing.

"Patten is a 10-year plan. The Policing Board has been in existence two years. We have dealt with the structural and those political issues. What we now need to be doing is turning onto the performance issues in relation to policing."

Mr Adams said there had been a consensus between the Irish Government, the SDLP and Sinn Fein which the SDLP had broken.

"The two governments were both shocked and delighted when the SDLP knocked on their doors and said to them they were going to go for the policing option," said Mr Adams.

"At Weston Park, the SDLP said you won't get legislative amendments, so don't bother going for them. We went for it and we got it."

He added: "The SDLP have made a mistake on this issue."

However, Mr Durkan responded that Sinn Fein were "jumping too late" over policing.

'Transfer down'

During the debate, Mr Adams said he had asked the SDLP if it would consider an electoral pact with Sinn Fein.

"Mark said no, and that's fair enough - that's his position."

Mr Durkan said: "Gerry said to me: 'I am thinking of perhaps calling for a transfer pact between our parties'. I said to Gerry very clearly that I would, in the elections, be recommending that anyone who votes SDLP should transfer down the line to other pro-Agreement parties of their choice.

"Equally, I would be up front in asking for transfers from other pro-Agreement parties to the SDLP."

Meanwhile, anti-Agreement Ulster Unionists are to release a post-election strategy later this week.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson denied it was a mini-manifesto, although he confirmed the proposals had been sent to the party's leader for inclusion in the UUP manifesto.

But Mr Donaldson said he was told that the manifesto had already gone to the printers.

The strategy, was drawn up by rebels MPs, Mr Donaldson, Martin Smyth and David Burnside.

It pledges closer cooperation with other unionists such as the DUP in the forthcoming review, and no devolution of justice and policing unless there is a guarantee Sinn Fein won't get the portfolio.

The strategy also involves opposing the British-Irish joint declaration and resisting power-sharing with Sinn Fein without fully transparent IRA decommissioning of all weapons, IRA disbandment and a declaration the war is over.

Also on the campaign trail, the Democratic Unionist Party's Robin Newton described the upsurge in the illegal traders in Belfast city centre as "appalling".

"On Saturday morning I was shopping in Belfast and was shocked that Cornmarket, Castle Lane and Royal Avenue were flooded with illegal stalls."

He added: "The stalls detract from the festive spirit of the city centre as the stores expensive, well-designed and pleasing to the eye window displays and other Christmas features are blocked from view."

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