**Bull shite from Boultwood

Republicans in city divided on police boycott, claims
top officer

25/01/2005 14:42:09

West Belfast republicans are divided over ending their
boycott on dealing with police, a top officer claimed

But even if Sinn Fein makes an historic decision to
support the reformed force, the new district commander
in MP Gerry Adams` constituency admitted it could take
him three years to win public trust.

Chief Superintendent David Boultwood also warned
Orange Order leaders supported by loyalist
paramilitaries they face hypocrisy accusations if they
do not negotiate with republicans over flashpoint

Mr Boultwood, who transferred over from north
Belfast`s sectarian patchwork of Catholic and
Protestant neighbourhoods, has taken charge of an area
awash with Sinn Fein electoral strength.

Despite Mr Adams and his strategists insisting the
revamped Police Service of Northern Ireland is still
too close to the old RUC for any declaration of
support, the district commander believes republicans
know they need help to control car-thieves and

He said: "Republicans recognise that short of beating
them or shooting them, which in the past hasn`t proved
successful, they need to come on board with the
statutory authorities.

"That is a big issue they have as to how they manage
that and in what time frame."

Brutal methods of street justice have declined as the
men ordering the punishments realise they are not
deterring the joyriders and vandals, Mr Boultwood

Paramilitary shootings blamed on republicans in west
Belfast dropped from 20 in 2003 to six last year,
according to police statistics.

Assaults fell from 16 to six in the same period.

"What`s coming back to me from my officers is that
there would appear to be a desire within elements of
Sinn Fein to work with the police because they
recognise that is the way forward," he said.

He would not say whether he had made any direct
attempt to contact republican leaders since taking

But he claimed: "We would understand there are people
within Sinn Fein who would talk to us, and others who
would not.

"We talk to people in the community who have good
contacts and they will tell us how far we can and
cannot go."

He added: "Behind closed doors people are more than
happy to speak to us and support us in what we are
trying to to."

Even though Mr Adams held ground-breaking talks with
Chief Constable Hugh Orde last year, the prospect of
Sinn Fein endorsing the new arrangements and joining
Northern Ireland`s watchdog Policing Board seems as
far off as ever.

Republicans in his patch still resent the searches
carried out after the multi-million pound Northern
Bank raid blamed on the IRA, Mr Boultwood conceded.

That was a setback for community relations, but the
position is recoverable, he insisted.

But there is no illusion about the scale of the
challenge in winning republicans` hearts and minds
after years of mistrust.

With a 25-year policing career stretching back over
some of Northern Ireland`s worst violence, Mr
Boultwood realises any political settlement would take
time to filter down.

"It would take us possibly two to three years to get
us to the situation where we would be similar to other
parts of Belfast, where we could build up our
networks, our contacts and bond with the community.

"You have to change people`s mindsets, and the only
way we can change that is by demonstrating commitment
to the community and our commitment to community

"From the very day they (Sinn Fein) sign up, we will
start to make attempts to build on that level of

In the meantime, he wants to strip away the "war
footing" under which police have operated in the

The threat from dissident republican terrorists in the
area is still real, but briefings from the police`s C3
unit, the old Special Branch, have told Mr Boultwood
it is manageable.

As he settles into a job he took up last month, the
district commander has already started planning for
this summer`s volatile loyalist marching season.

The biggest worries centre around the annual Whiterock
and Twelfth of July parades, prompting a call for the
loyal orders and residents to enter negotiations now.

The Orange Order has refused to hold face to face
talks with any groups they believe are aligned to
republicans, but Mr Boultwood pointed out its leaders
have acknowledged loyalist paramilitary assistance.

"The fact that people such as Sinn Fein and former
paramilitaries will be representing the communities of
west Belfast, should no longer act as a block for them
talking directly to them," he said.

"What I would say to the Orange Order now is that that
will be seen by the nationalist/republican community
as applying double standards."

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