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20 July 2006 Edition

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The Michel McLaughlin Column - Policing - The nationalist experience

BY MITCHEL McLAUGHLIN

The Michel McLaughlin Column

Policing - the nationalist experience

The British Secretary of State, Peter Hain, speaking at the Mc Gill Summer School in Glenties, Co. Donegal again attempted to muddy the waters around the issue of acceptable policing. In an attempt to deflect attention away from the British government failure to deliver what was promised in the Patten Report Mr Hain disingenuously tried to differentiate between support of constitutional policing structures and support for the delivery of policing on the ground.

What Peter Hain and the British government need to realise is that the key to acceptable policing in the nationalist community is accountability‚ and an end to political policing. Accountability from the lowest rank on the ground all the way to the Chief Constable. The nationalist experience of policing since Partition has been one of bias, prejudice and harassment. To date nationalists continue to experience the familiar political agenda that characterised the RUC in the delivery of policing on the ground. There has certainly been no change in the frequent interventions by the Policing establishment designed clearly to influence the political process.

Peter Hain cannot expect anyone to seriously believe that you can separate the public perception of day-to-day policing from the failure to hold the Chief Constable and Special Branch to account.

In the meantime, Sinn Féin, while unable to endorse the present policing arrangements accepts that it is the entitlement of any individual to contact the PSNI in relation to crime in our community. Any other impression given by Peter Hain is calculated to present a jaundiced view of our Party's position on policing. He knows better. It would better serve the public if Mr Hain delivered the accountable policing that would prevent the PSNI from pressurising vulnerable individuals to work as informers. Sinn Féin will endorse policing when the British government meets its obligations on Patten, but we have no intention of entering into any halfway house arrangements.

How for example, does the British government's latest departure from Patten contribute to delivering accountability‚? The arbitrary decision that MI5 should be given primacy over the PSNI in intelligence gathering further serves to undermine the attempts to build the confidence in policing that is required. There must be no role for MI5 in policing in Ireland. The British Security Services have been involved in collusion as well as resourcing and directing Unionist Murder Gangs. Along with elements of the RUC Special Branch who transferred en-bloc into the PSNI these securocrats are presently engaged in cover-ups and denial of involvement in Britain's dirty war in Ireland.

Who but a British government would have the arrogance to argue that these forces could be part of new accountable, civilianised policing structures? If the British government is serious about wanting republicans and nationalists to embrace policing it knows what is required. Policing and Justice must be removed from the influence of the securocrats and vested in locally accountable Ministers. Nothing less than transparent, civilianised policing, fully accountable to a democratically constituted Policing Board is acceptable.

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