22 June 2000 Edition

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Martin McGuinness in Washington

At meetings in Washington on Monday and Tuesday, 19 and 20 June, Martin McGuinness told the American administration and members of the Senate and House that the Policing Bill, introduced by the British government ``has a long way to go'' before it reflects the Patten recommendations.

McGuinness met with Jim Steinberg and Dick Norland of the National Security Council at the White House on Monday. He told them that Sinn Féin's view was that the Patten recommendations did not go far enough, that they were a compromise and there could not be further compromising on such a key issue. He said that right across the board, nationalists were demanding a new police service which young nationalists could join but that a whitewash of the RUC or repackaging of that discredited force was not acceptable or supportable.

At a meeting on Tuesday 20 June hosted by Congressman Peter King, members of Congress including Richie Neal, Joe Crowley, Marty Meehan, Carolyn McCarthy, Jim Walsh, Mike Capuano, Ben Gilman and Chris Smith spoke out strongly against any watering down of the Patten recommendations. Congressman Neal spoke of ``this nod and wink way'' of dealing with such an important aspect of the Agreement reminding him that the people ``have spoken with one clear and unambiguous voice on this important matter. Their message is simple: the Patten Report should not be diluted or altered by the British government. In the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, it must be implemented in full. We strongly agree.''

Congressman Meehan queried whether even considerable legislative changes would bring the Policing bill close to Patten. Congressman Crowley spoke strongly of the need for continuing and stronger focus from Congress on the question of policing and the need to fully implement the Patten report, particularly in the light of the Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson, and Pat Finucane cases.

Congressman Smith who has held hearings under the auspices of the International Relations Sub-Committee on Human Rights, pointed to Patten's statement that his Commission's report was to be taken as a whole and not cherry-picked. Smith added that his view was that the Patten recommendations were the low mark, not the high mark for a new policing service and could not be watered down. He announced his intention of holding a series of hearings on the implementation of Patten and the essential charges to the policing bill.

McGuinness then met Senators Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd, who also expresses concern for the full implementation of the Patten report and for all commitments to be delivered on.

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