4 January 2007 Edition
Positive response necessary for progress
In a bold political initiative the Sinn Féin leadership has backed a proposal by Party President Gerry Adams to convene a special Ard Fheis this month on the issue of policing.
The move by the Ard Chomhairle last Friday follows the achievement of far reaching changes to policing and justice matters in the Six Counties, particularly in the intensive talks with the British government over recent weeks.
It must be emphasised however that a positive response from the DUP is necessary for any special Ard Fheis to go ahead.
As An Phoblacht goes to print it is unclear whether the Democratic Unionist Party intends to respond positively to the Sinn Féin initiative. A number of DUP figures in an obviously co-ordinated series of public statements, have been entirely negative.
Meanwhile the 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 went on to claim that Sinn Féin would have to prove its ‘bona fides’ on the policing issue.
The position of the Sinn Féin leadership on this issue is clear. For eight years the party negotiated with the British government on the issue and this intensified last month. Profound changes have been secured as a result.
Up to this point Sinn Féin has stayed out of policing structures in the Six Counties in order to achieve maximum change on the issue. If a Special Ard Fheis supports the Ard Chomhairle motion, it will mean that the party will get involved in a new policing dispensation for the express purpose of bringing about further change, maximising our political impact and ensuring that the policing model we have seen in the Six Counties for decades is consigned to the past.
The next few weeks will see widespread and intense discussion within Sinn Féin and externally on policing. Discussions will also involve the families of republicans who have laid down their lives in the cause of Irish freedom and the families of victims of British state murder and collusion.
Republican and nationalist experience of policing in the Six Counties has been of a sectarian, paramilitary force which perpetrated murder, torture, collusion and shoot-to-kill. The ending of that legacy and the achievement of the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement is an enormous prize and a key strategic aim for republicans.
Success will mark a huge advance for our struggle and for the search for a just and lasting peace for all the people of Ireland.