1 February 2007 Edition
Decision time for Paisley
The Extraordinary Sinn Féin Ard Fheis last Sunday overwhelmingly endorsed an Ard Chomhairle motion to change long standing party policy on policing. It was a groundbreaking decision. Despite the bitter experience of many in the RDS hall and their families at the hands of political police, delegates showed huge courage and leadership.
The vast majority of delegates voted in favour of the proposition before them. However others voted and spoke against, but all of them made clear the absolute requirement for republican unity and the value of comradeship. That is possible because republicans are in complete and total agreement about our primary objective – to end Partition and remove the British state from Ireland.
The Árd Fheis decision means that Sinn Féin will encourage people in the Six Counties to co-operate with the police to solve crime in the community. However further progress will take longer and can only happen either with the return of the power-sharing institutions on 26 March or in the context of new all-Ireland partnership arrangements.
Sunday’s decision allows Sinn Féin to move forward on the issue of policing but there remain many justifiable concerns about the political dimensions of policing in the North. Collusion is one hugely important issue that must be tackled once and for all. The PSNI still needs to win the confidence of people within the nationalist community in particular. To do so they must act as a professional, non-partisan, civic service for all citizens.
Republicans should not allow themselves be distracted by the churlish reaction of members of the DUP leadership over the past five days. Assertions that they are going to ‘test republicans’ are ludicrous. The DUP are in no position to lecture anyone on law and order. Many of its leading members, including Ian Paisley, have long adopted an attitude of supporting the law only when it suits their narrow, sectarian interests. They have repeatedly and notoriously flouted the law, bent the law or attacked policing and justice structures when they see fit. Whether through DUP co-operation with various unionist paramilitary outfits such as the Third Force or Ulster Resistance or leading DUP members consorting with the leaders of loyalist murder gangs or most recently in the party’s attack on the office of the Police Ombudsman when it exposed collusion between British state forces and unionist paramilitaries – DUP commitment to the rule of law is highly dubious.
The Ard Fheis decision was not about the DUP. As Gerry Adams said, Sinn Féin did what it did in the national interest. However the fact remains that the political spotlight does now fall inevitably onto DUP leader, Ian Paisley. He must state publicly if he is prepared to enter a power sharing Executive in the Six Counties with republicans by 26 March. Last Sunday Sinn Féin faced up to a tough decision and came through united, confident and looking to the future. Now it is decision time for Ian Paisley.
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