6 September 2000 Edition
US Congress discusses Patten
The powerful International Relations Committee of the United States Congress will today, Thursday, 7 September, discuss a resolution in support of the full implementation of the Patten Commission's recommendations on policing in the Six Counties.
This is the first of two resolutions on Patten to be tabled in the US House of Representatives and Senate. In the next couple of weeks, a second resolution, tabled by Senators Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodds, will go before the US Senate. It is expected that the resolution will be put before the full Congress before the end of the month.
In a statement to members of the International Relations Committee before the debate, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed the ongoing interest of the US Congress in the peace process and on the critical issue of policing. He told the members of Congress: ``A new beginning to policing was promised in the Good Friday Agreement. An Independent Commission was established to decide on the most appropriate way to fulfill this requirement and to provide a blueprint for the way forward.
``The outcome of this arbitration, the Patten Report, represents a compromise position which is the absolute minimum required in terms of change. The absence of recommendations in relation to repressive legislation and lethal plastic bullets and the absence of a comprehensive programme of demilitarisation create huge difficulties for nationalists and republicans. Like policing, these too are critical matters which must be redressed if we are to have peace, democracy and acountability.
``What is required is a new civic policing service representative of the community as a whole, democratically accountable, working in partnership with all citizens, and upholding international standards of human rights; a policing service that reflects the goals set within the Good Friday Agreement and is supported by the whole community.''
West Belfast policing debates
The issue of policing in the North of Ireland was again at the centre stage last Thursday at the Falls Community Council in West Belfast. Representatives of community organisations and human rights campaigners gathered to announce a series of debates on the future of policing, to be coordinated by the council.
With the legislation on policing set to create a storm in the coming weeks, the aim of the debates is to gather grass-roots opinions and responses to the proposed legislation.
When the Patten consultation started, the Falls Community Council had already set up a series of consultations on the issue, culminating with a meeting between the Patten Commission and the public at Whiterock and a large conference in Springvale.
Speaking at the press conference announcing the launch, Liz Groves, chair of the Falls Community Council, spoke of the need for widespread community debate on the implementation of all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement relating to policing. ``Recent developments with the policing bill and the inquiry into Rosemary Nelson's murder have made such debates necessary. This new police service has to be right for us as a community. We are very concerned that many issues are still not being tackled in the proposed policing bill,'' said Groves.
``We want to make sure that all issues in the Good Friday Agreement are addressed in the implementation plan and the forthcoming legislation. We will continue to work with community groups to make sure that all steps are taken to ensure that whatever new policing service is right for the community.''
Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Féin said it was vital that the unanimity which is emerging from the broad nationalist community on the issue of policing be maintained: ``What we want is the security of an acceptable, representative and accountable policing service. The people in all the constituencies represented by both Sinn Féin and the SDLP want the same thing and they have consistently stressed that.''