‘Working class loyalist areas need a voice’

Phil Hamilton
Phil Hamilton

A RATHCOOLE community worker has hit out at the selection process used to appoint independent members to the Newtownabbey Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), claiming that working class loyalist areas have been denied a voice.

Phil Hamilton was deemed ‘a suitable candidate’ to become an independent member of the new body. However, he wasn’t chosen by the Policing Board’s Appointment Panel as one of the nine successful independent applicants.

Robert Hill

Robert Hill

Following the first meeting of the local PCSP earlier this month, the Progressive Unionist Party representative raised concerns that the make-up of the Newtownabbey Partnership isn’t inclusive of the whole community.

“There are no independent members representing working class loyalist communities. A gap has been left and there is no-one to speak up for these communities,” he told the Times.

“There are a lot of estates in Newtownabbey, but where is their voice? It’s good that these areas have representatives with a political mandate, but what about the voice of the community?”

Mr Hamilton, who regularly works alongside the PSNI and other agencies trying to deal with issues such as interface violence, flags and parades, stressed that he has already voiced his concerns to members of the PCSP and the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Expressing his disappointment at what he believes was a flawed selection process, Mr Hamilton added: “It didn’t necessarily have to be me, but someone from a loyalist working class area should have been included among the independent members.

“Working class loyalist areas need a voice, regardless of who that person is, in order to hold the police accountable, and so that the police can hold the community accountable.”

Responding to Mr Hamilton’s concerns, Newtownabbey PCSP Chairman, Councillor Robert Hill, said: “I know some people are disappointed and frustrated by the final selection, made by the Policing Board, of independents to the Newtownabbey Policing and Community Safety Partnership, but I would like to assure them that as Chair of this new body I will endeavour to give everyone a voice. I will welcome any offers of assistance and advice from representatives of all communities in our borough and hope we can, in cooperation with the police, make the whole of Newtownabbey a safer place for our neighbours and a more welcoming place for visitors.”

A Policing Board spokesperson added: “In making appointments to PCSPs, the Policing Board is required to seek, as far as practicable, to ensure that the overall membership of each PCSP is representative of the community in the council area.

“In appointing independent members to the PCSPs, the Policing Board is satisfied that all parts of our increasingly diverse society are represented. This includes representation not just on the grounds of gender or community background, but also from those sectors who would identify as working class loyalist or republican.”