23 February 2006 Edition

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Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2006 POLICING

Gerry Kelly MLA

Gerry Kelly MLA

Special Ard Fheis will decide position on new arrangements

Going on the offensive on policing issue

Elements of the media hyped it up as a, "potentially divisive" debate that would undermine the Sinn Féin leadership but the Ard Chomhairle position on policing was endorsed by a large majority of delegates last weekend.

A motion proposing that in the event of a transfer of policing powers to a democratically-elected institution in the North, the Sinn Féin President would propose to the Ard Chomhairle that it call a special Ard Fheis so that the membership could discuss and vote, "to decide Sinn Féin's position on new policing arrangements".

North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly stressed that in light of the IRA's 28 July statement which, "removed any excuse or pretext for the unionists, the British or the Dublin Government to hold up the process", it was, "imperative", that on the issue of policing republicans drove the agenda. "No one else will," he said.

"Our opposition to the present policing arrangements is not just a matter of timing," said Kelly, "it is a matter of integrity, entitlements and our inalienable rights. Republicans will not be badgered or forced into accepting less then the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement. At the core of our position is the establishment of a threshold which enables the creation of democratically accountable, representative civic policing and the consignment of political policing to the dustbin of history along with the other failures of the past."

While a number of delegates argued forcefully that Sinn Féin should never be involved in policing arrangements in a part of Ireland under British rule others warned against, "absolutist motions", that would send out the wrong signal, that the party was afraid to be involved in the policing debate and in the process of forcing the British to implement necessary changes to the policing and justice system.

North Belfast delegate Seán Mag Uidhir described the motions as being akin to republicans, "sitting back until the 'glorious day arrived' ".

"We don't put the issues of health, housing or the economy on the long finger so why should policing be any different. Why should we park the policing issue until we have arrived at a united Ireland"? he asked.

Declan Kearney detailed the Six-County Cuige's upcoming campaign to "expose the political detectives and confront the Securocrats in the NIO".

Both Kearney and Pat Treanor of Monaghan told delegates that policing was a site of struggle for republicans, that our enemies were using policing against us so we needed to be in there fighting our corner and not, "sitting on our hands waiting for a United Ireland".

While the debate around policing in the North generated the most heat there were nine motions dealing with policing in the 26 Counties.

Aengus O Snodaigh TD urged delegates to look at the Garda's record of political policing.

Ó Snodaigh and other delegates called for an effective Police Ombudsman's office as part of a process of making the Gardaí more accountable.

One speaker went further and called for an Ombudsman who would investigate judges and others involved in the legal system.

For more see http://www.ardfheis.com/news/774

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