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5 July 2007 Edition

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Whiterock meeting extremely significant

This week’s meeting in a strongly republican area of West Belfast, attended by PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde and other PSNI officers was extremely significant.
The first such event of its kind attended by senior PSNI personnel was made possible when Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams last week invited PSNI officers to discuss community concerns about policing in the Upper Springfield area of his constituency.
The event is another indicator of the changing political landscape in the Six Counties which has been brought about through the success of the peace process, the re-establishment of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and the impeding devolution of policing and justice powers from Britain to the Six Counties which saw Sinn Féin members take their seats on the North’s Policing Board last month.
More specifically it represents a step in a wider effort to find space for nationalist communities to engage with the criminal justice agencies, including the PSNI, to tackle vital issues of concern to those communities.
Sinn Féin is encouraging people in the Six Counties who have information about criminal activity afflicting their community to go directly to the PSNI. Some people will not do so because they still do not have confidence that the policing and justice system in the North is working for nationalist communities. This is a reality following decades of sectarian and political policing.
For many years dedicated voluntary community activists have worked under great pressures to deal with anti-social and criminal issues, caused by small minorities, which have affected working class communities. The police have a clear responsibility to such communities. Sinn Féin intends to hold the PSNI to account in this regard and work to ensure that people get the policing service they are entitled to.
In relation to the recent problems in Ballymurphy, there have been the usual superficial treatment and distortions in the media. Working-class communities North and South have become used to such portrayals over the years. This has the affect of adding further to problems by creating misunderstanding and sends a subtle message that those in authority and wider society have no obligations in helping to deal with what are serious social issues.
As Gerry Adams pointed out on Tuesday there is no ‘Ballymurphy feud’ but there is a problem involving criminal gangs inflicting violence against local people and property. Whether in Ballymurphy or Ballymun this is unacceptable and all the relevant statutory agencies have a duty to work with the community to ensure the safety of citizens and to bring such behaviour swiftly and decisively to end.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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