Police plan lacks substance
The policing proposals announced yesterday by Peter Mandelson failed to deliver on the full implementation plan promised by the British Government for December 1999.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing Gerry Kelly explained the concerns of many nationalists and republicans at the lack of substance in the plan: ``We have today received a broad outline of the British Government's intentions. I am concerned that political threats from the UUP and others to collapse the entire Agreement over the Patten proposals are tied up with this.
``At the beginning of the consultation process on the proposals, the British Government promised that a full plan to implement the findings would be produced in December of last year. What we got today, one month late, falls short of that. There is no full and detailed plan for the implementation nor is there draft legislation which will actually spell out in detail the intentions of the British government.''
In a speech which has been criticised for its failure to address the victims of RUC violence, the proposals were condensed into several main points: The introduction of a compulsory oath for new recruits, which would not, however, be extended to existing members of the RUC; human rights training for all members of the conceived force; a Police Board, accountable to and comprised of public representatives; the retention of the infamous Special Branch and CID forces; the RUC to be renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Mandelson also recommended that there would be no change in uniform colour and that a new service badge be introduced in the Autumn of 2001. In a clear gesture towards unionists, he said that ``there is no question whatsoever of ex-terrorists joining the service'' and that the ``process of change will extend over several years''. Operational control of the RUC, he assured the House of Commons, will remain ``firmly in the Chief Constable's hands''. In an unintentionally ironic remark, Mandelson said that ``it is now time for them (nationalists) to support this programme for change''.
While Sinn Féin has not yet given a definitive response to these proposals, Gerry Kelly called on the British Government to introduce draft legislation in order to clarify their position. ``Sinn Féin's position on the RUC is clear,'' he affirmed. ``So is our position on the need to establish a new policing service. Obviously we need to see the legislation before making a definitive response to the proposals on the future of policing. It must be remembered that the final judgement on these proposals will be whether or not young nationalists will want or be able to join the policing service.''
Meanwhile, the Relatives for Justice campaign stressed their shock at the decision to put the current Chief Constable of the RUC, Ronnie Flanagan, in charge of implementing the human rights aspect of the proposals. ``Flanagan in charge of human rights is a real case of contradiction in terms and certainly does not augur well for the future'', the organisation's spokesperson, Jim McCabe said.