The Government welcomed the decision on 29 May to appoint Mr. Hugh Orde, the Deputy Assistant Chief Constable of the London Metropolitan Police, as the new Chief Constable for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. In publicly congratulating Mr. Orde, I stressed the significance of the Chief Constable being chosen for the first time through open competition by representatives of the community which he will serve. Mr. Orde will take up duty at a challenging and potentially rewarding time. Dealing with public order situations in a fair and effective manner, earning the confidence of the whole community and establishing a positive working relationship with the Policing Board are key objectives. Overriding these is the central challenge of making the vision outlined in the Patten recommendations a reality for the people of Northern Ireland.
There have been many positive policing developments since the inauguration of the Police Service of Northern Ireland last November. The Policing Board has demonstrated its professionalism and strength of purpose in being able to craft skilful solutions to a host of issues. These included the decisions on the new emblem and the considered response to the Omagh reports. The first batch of new police officers selected on a 50-50 basis graduated on 5 April. North-South policing co-operation has been enhanced with the signing on 29 April of an intergovernmental agreement covering all areas of co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, as recommended in the Patten report.
Upon gaining his new position, Mr. Orde promised that his tenure as Chief Constable would be as open and transparent as possible. The Patten proposals for restructuring special branch and amalgamating it with criminal division need to be implemented fully and without delay. The role of Tom Constantine, the independent oversight commissioner with responsibility for overseeing the full and effective implementation of the Patten recommendations, is crucial in this regard. He has already signalled concern at a lack of progress in implementing the relevant Patten recommendations on special branch restructuring and he is expected to return to this issue again in his next progress report, due in September.
I also look forward to the establishment in the near future of the district policing partnerships, as recommended by Patten, which will assist the process of building local confidence in policing. Overall, the Government looks forward to continued implementation of the Patten recommendations and the creation of new policing structures in Northern Ireland. I would like to take this opportunity to condemn the despicable bomb attack on a Catholic recruit to PSNI which occurred recently in Ballymena and call on everyone in the community to give the new Chief Constable, the new recruits, and the new police service as a whole, the support they need to provide an effective, impartial and accountable policing service to all the people of Northern Ireland.