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25 January 2007 Edition

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Intense internal and public debate



In the almost 40-year history of this phase of the struggle for a united Ireland there has never been a period of such intense internal and public debate involving republicans all over this country.

The Sinn Féin and IRA leaderships have already taken huge decisions which have positively shaped the peace process. But those decisions were over matters which could be described as strictly within the republican domain – IRA cessation,  putting weapons beyond use, ending armed struggle, participating in a Northern administration.

However the issue of policing reaches into every home in the North. The participants in the debate have been the backbone of the resistance movement for the last four decades and beyond. The people on the sharp end of political policing.

At a meeting in Belfast’s Short Strand a woman who lost an infant and a husband  – an IRA volunteer, said she could never support the police. In a voice on the edge of breaking down she asked why she and others like her should support the police.

Patrick Rooney’s father whose young son was shot dead by the RUC in Divis Flats in 1969 said his heart told him not to support the police but his head told him something else.

A mother told a hushed crowd in Beechmount area of the morning the PSNI arrived to raid her home. It was the anniversary of her son’s death shot dead by Michael Stone in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery. They asked for him by name.

In Twinbrook an emotionally upset mother whose son was shot dead with two others told the meeting the time had come to change, to engage with the police.

A brother of one of the IRA volunteers who died at Edentubber in the 1950s said he was fully behind the initiative. These emotional contributions were laced with other concerns.

What guarantees are there that Sinn Féin’s support for policing will make any difference?

How could Sinn Fein make MI5 accountable? What happens if there is no Assembly, no local minister in charge of policing and justice?

The Ombudsman’s report into Special Branch collusion with loyalists in the killing of 19 people was a vivid reminder of political policing and of the task facing Sinn Féin if Sunday’s motion is passed.




An Phoblacht
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