Sinn Féin report slams Policing Bill
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
As the British Government's Policing Bill moves to Westminster's
House of Lords, Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness today
launches a 100-page analysis and comprehensive indictment of the
bill's failures to date, titled `Policing: A New Beginning?'.
This is the bill that party president Gerry Adams has already
slammed as forewarning of a police service which would be wholly
unacceptable to the nationalist and republican community.
These comments come as, on the Bill's third reading in the
British House of Commons, it was resolved to retain the name of
the `Royal Ulster Constabulary' in the title of envisaged new
Sinn Féin criticisms of Peter Mandelson's deviation from the
Patten Commission's proposals stretch far beyond the hotly
debated name-change issue. The party points out that the bill
ignores and even subverts the most basic of Patten's
Of the 175 Patten proposals, Sinn Féin says that the Policing
Bill proposes to implement just 11 in full. There is insufficient
information provided to judge whether another 75 of the
recommendations are to be implemented, while 89 of the Patten
proposals are blatantly subverted, the report states.
``An even worse statistic reveals that of the 175 Patten
recommendations, 75 can be described as fundamental and of these
we find that 60 have been subverted by the Policing Bill,'' says
He adds that the passing of the legislation to the Lords provides
``an appropriate point at which to take stock of various aspects
of the issue. These include the gap between the initial British
Government proposals and the Patten recommendations, the progress
to date in bridging that gap and the additional progress which is
``The departure from Patten is particularly serious in key areas
such as the powers of the Police Board and the powers of the
Ombudsman; the oath; the powers and structure of local
accountability mechanisms; and the legacy of the RUC, including
its name, badge and symbols. These are all issues of great
concern amongst the broad nationalist and republican community.
``Sinn Féin have been consistent in our call for an end to the use
of plastic bullets,'' he stresses. ``An end to repressive
legislation and an unarmed policing service are basic
requirements for a just and lasting peace. The implementation of
the conclusions to a thorough ongoing review of the justice
system is something we also want to see.''
McGuinness says that Sinn Féin has made the British and Irish
governments fully aware of the details of its concerns, and the
party provided the British with more than 70 amendments, prepared
for the second reading of the Bill in early June.
``The sheer volume of complaints from Sinn Féin, the Irish
Government, the SDLP, the Catholic Bishops and others with regard
to the initial legislation simply cannot be ignored,'' says
McGuinness. ``The British Government has to move.''
``We have acknowledged that the Patten recommendations are a
threshold which could make a new beginning possible,'' says
McGuinness. ``A new beginning is clearly indispensable''.
He refers to the warning note sounded by the Independent
Commission on Policing when they unveiled their proposals in
September 1999. Commission chair Chris Patten, said: ``The
recommendations form a package which we firmly believe needs to
be implemented comprehensively. We counsel strongly against
cherry picking from the report or trying to implement some major
elements of it in isolation from others.''
``Amendments to the initial British government legislation in the
committee stage and third reading of the Bill have moved it back
some way in the direction of Patten,'' Martin McGuinness notes.
``This is welcome but it falls far short of what is required
across a wide range of issues, which the Patten Commission
In summary, McGuinness believes the proposals still fall far
short of creating the necessary conditions for a just and
accountable police service: ``The British government still has a
substantial distance to go to bring their proposals in line with
the Patten threshold. These issues need to be dealt with in a new
implementation plan, due to be published in the autumn. More will
have to be dealt with in a whole series of codes and regulations.
These need to be published and subjected to the same public
scrutiny as the legislation itself.
``The amount of detail involved in all of this is substantial and
will require a continuous process of examination, assessment and
review. Sinn Féin will continue to do that in the coming period.
Sinn Féin will continue to lobby, campaign and monitor the
``But what is clear, given the British Government's handling of
this to date, is that if the objectives of the Good Friday
Agreement with regard to policing are to be achieved, and if the
British Government's commitments to fully implement Patten are to
be honoured, the concerned voices which moved the British
Government to the current position will need to maintain their
political cohesion and focus.''
McGuinness is also at pains to emphasise that policing is not
exclusively a Sinn Féin issue. ``This is a core issue for
democrats, which is of direct importance to such critical matters
as equality, justice and peace. A new beginning to policing is
indispensable to a successful conflict resolution process.''