Issue 4-2022 small

15 April 2010 Edition

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Transfer - a major step forward

Much of the media coverage of the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast has repeated the line that this is “the first time since 1972” that the Six Counties have had their own Justice Minister. It is nothing of the kind. It is the first time there has ever been such a Ministerial position in the North.
The last time policing and justice powers resided in Belfast the Unionist Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs was Brian Faulkner. He imposed internment without trial in August 1971. This was the culmination of 50 years of Unionist one-party rule in an Orange state in which nationalists were treated as second-class citizens.
There is no comparison between the situation then and now;  between the post of Home Affairs Minister in an Orange state with the ability to deploy the sectarian RUC and B Specials and the establishment of a Justice Ministry in the North in a power-sharing Executive, with policing being transformed and under accountable political control. And this is in the context of political agreements with equality as their basis and within all-Ireland structures.
If you want to appreciate the significance of what has happened this week just recall the resistance of unionism to any such transfer since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Sinn Féin met that resistance with determination, fulfilling its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements and demanding that others do the same. In the end that republican  persistence has won out.
But this is only a beginning. The transformation of policing must continue. The justice system must truly serve the people. There must be a Bill of Rights. Progress is needed in addressing the causes of anti-social behaviour and crime as well as in safeguarding people from it. Republicans are ready for that task.

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