4 January 2007 Edition
Policing: Positive response vital as DUP position unclear
Special Ard Fheis called as negotiations secure significant change
As An Phoblacht goes to print it is still unclear whether the Democratic Unionist Party will respond positively to the Sinn Féin’s Ard Chomhairle’s initiative on policing in the Six Counties.
A number of senior DUP figures including Maurice Morrow and Jim Allister, in what was obviously a co-ordinated series of statements, were entirely negative.
DUP chairperson, Maurice Morrow, said his party would not take part in power-sharing by March 26. “It is patently obvious that ‘Sinn Féin-IRA’ cannot deliver to the satisfaction of unionists in such a short space of time,” Morrow said.
DUP MP Willie McCrea said: “My colleague Mr Robinson MP has made it clear that the devolution of policing and justice would be several light years away. Therefore the issue is not on the radar irrespective of promises emanating from the Northern Ireland Office, London and Dublin.
“The DUP resolve remains solid on this issue but we also serve notice that many other issues need delivery.
“Sinn Féin has to agree to the dismantling of IRA structures, the handing over of IRA ill-gotten gains – including the Northern Bank robbery money, informing on those responsible for the murder of Robert McCartney, and identifying the whereabouts of the disappeared – to name but a few of the outstanding issues.”
The South Antrim MP also insisted the British government had to address a number of confidence-building measures for unionists before the DUP would enter any power sharing arrangement with republicans.
In his New Year message to supporters, DUP leader Ian Paisley said his party would not be found wanting in any attempt to restore the Six County Executive and secure cross community support for policing but he went on to claim that Sinn Féin had to prove its ‘bona fides’ on the policing issue.
An Phoblacht understands that contact continued between the Sinn Féin leadership and the British Government over the weekend and that Gerry Adams has spoken to Tony Blair several times in recent days.
Ard Chomhairle meeting
Sinn Féin’s Ard Chomhairle convened on Friday 29 December at The Great Southern Hotel beside Dublin Airport to discuss a motion on the issue of policing put forward by Party President Gerry Adams MP which required the party to convene an Special Ard Fheis to change its policy on the issue.
There were 80 people attendance at the meeting including the 56-strong Ard Chomhairle, TDs, MPs, MLAs and heads of Departments.
The first half of the meeting was devoted to an important report from Party President Gerry Adams and Leo Green on political negotiations which had taken place over Christmas. This report was followed by several hours of discussion including detailed questions and answers.
The second half of the meeting discussed a proposal on the policing issue proposed by Gerry Adams and seconded by the party’s Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness. The proposal was debated at great length and when eventually voted upon received in excess of the two thirds majority required for an Ard Fheis to be called.
Speaking after the meeting Gerry Adams announced to the waiting media that the Ard Chomhairle had backed his proposal and that if others, including the two governments and the DUP, responded positively the Ard Fheis would take place this January.
The Ard Chomhairle also decided not to publish the motion to go before the Ard Fheis until all party members had received it. Included in the motion is a commitment to:
- Devolution of policing and justice to the Assembly
- Support for the police services, An Garda Síochana and the PSNI and criminal justice system
- Hold the police and criminal justice systems fully to account both democratically and legally
- Appoint party representatives to the Policing Board and District Policing Partnership Boards to secure fair, impartial and effective policing with the community;
- Authorise Sinn Féin Ministers to take the ministerial Pledge of Office
- Actively encourage everyone in the community to co-operate fully with the police services in tackling crime in all areas and actively supporting all the criminal justice institutions.
Human Rights and Truth Recovery
- Equality and human rights to be at the heart of the new dispensation
- Equality of treatment for all victims and effective truth recovery mechanisms
Ending Repression and Political Policing
- Total opposition to any involvement by British Security Service/MI5 in civic policing
- Total opposition to the use of plastic bullets
- Ensuring there is no place in the PSNI for those guilty of human rights abuses.
A widespread discussion on the issue within Sinn Féin structures and externally is starting this week under the direction of a group headed by Party Vice President Pat Doherty, Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald, Declan Kearney and Rita O’Hare.
In the run up to the Ard Fheis, the party leadership will conduct a widespread debate within the party which will be led by party Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald. Sinn Féin will also hold a series of meetings with the wider republican and nationalist community, including the families of our patriot dead and victims of state murder and collusion.
Speaking at the Great Southern Hotel Gerry Adams said: “Our view is straight forward. We are committed to Irish unity. We support civic policing through a police service, which is representative of the community it serves, free from partisan political control and democratically accountable. We support fair, impartial and effective delivery of the rule of law. What we don’t support and what we will never allow to happen again is repressive, sectarian and political policing.
“I realise that this is a very difficult issue for many nationalists and republicans, not because we oppose law and order but because our experience is of a police service which served only one section of the community and which was involved in murder, torture, collusion and shoot-to-kill. However, the achievement of the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement would be an enormous achievement and I believe that we have now reached the point of taking the next step. If it succeeds it will advance the struggle for equality and the search for a just and lasting peace on the island of Ireland.”