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18 January 2007 Edition

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Policing - Ard Fheis next step in achieving new beginning


In a bold initiative on 29 December the Sinn Féin leadership backed a proposal by Party President Gerry Adams to convene an Extraordinary Ard Fheis on the issue of policing.

This followed the achievement of far reaching changes to policing and justice matters in the Six Counties, particularly in intensive talks with the British government which stretched over the Christmas period.

It was emphasised that, under the original motion passed by the Ard Chomhairle, a positive response from the DUP was necessary for the Ard Fheis to go ahead. No such response was forthcoming. Indeed the DUP was entirely negative.

Last Saturday the Ard Chomhairle refused to allow rejectionist unionism divert it from pursuing its strategy. It again backed a proposal for an Extraordinary Ard Fheis to go ahead on 28 January despite the failure of the DUP to respond positively. This difficult and courageous decision ensures that the political process continues to move forward.

If the Ard Fheis adopts the proposed motion the potential exists for the full involvement by Irish republicans in policing structures throughout Ireland.

The motion before the Ard Fheis gives the Ard Chomhairle the responsibility and authority to fully implement all elements of it. The necessary context for this is the re-establishment of the political institutions under the Good Friday Agreement and confirmation that policing and justice powers will be transferred to these institutions or when acceptable new partnership arrangements to implement the Agreement are in place.

An all-Ireland policing service is a Sinn Féin objective. A transitional aim is accountable, civic policing for people in the Six Counties. Through hard negotiations huge progress has been achieved on democratic accountability, human rights protections and the ending of political and repressive policing. Last week saw changes on the key issues of the removal of MI5 from local policing structures and on the use of plastic bullets.

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 the Ard Fheis supports the Ard Chomhairle motion, it will mean involvement in a new policing dispensation to bring further change.

The next two weeks will see widespread discussion within republican ranks and the wider community on policing. It is important that everyone has their say.

Nationalist experience of a sectarian, paramilitary police force in the Six Counties involved in murder and collusion with loyalist death squads must be consigned firmly to the past. Republicans cannot allow rejectionist unionists to veto our efforts to achieve the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement. The Extraordinary Ard Fheis is the necessary next step in the process of achieving that goal.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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