British divide and conquer tactics dismissed
BY LAURA FRIEL
``The Patten Recommendations on policing are the threshold, the floor, not the ceiling, of what is required, `` Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly told reporters in Belfast on Wednesday, 19 July. ``The Policing Commission's position that their recommendations be implemented comprehensively as a package and not subjected to cherry picking needs to be adhered to.''
Sinn Féin and the SDLP reacted angrily this week to comments by British Secretary of State Peter Mandelson which were seen as a crude attempt to create divisions between nationalist political representatives in their approach to the proposed changes in policing in the North.
Kelly accused Mandelson of a ``hamfisted and transparent attempt to distract attention away from the widespread criticism of his Policing Bill and its dilution of the core positions contained in the Patten report''.
Peter Mandelson's remarks were patronising of sections of Irish nationalism and ignored the united and vocal opposition to the Policing Bill in Belfast, Dublin, at Westminster and Washington, said Kelly,
The British Secretary of State had claimed that the ``spirit and the letter ``of the Patten proposals would be implemented in full and predicted that the new Police Service of Northern Ireland would gain widespread support.
Mandelson said he had attempted to address nationalist concerns but warned the SDLP not to ``fall into the trap of adopting other people's hype and other people's misrepresentations'', a comment believed to have been addressed at Sinn Féin and designed to create divisions within nationalists on the policing issue.
``The objectives of the Good Friday Agreement on the policing issue were agreed by both governments and all the pro-Agreement parties. They are clear, unambiguous and necessary,'' said Kelly. ``That is, to achieve a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole and which is representative in terms of the make up of the community as a whole. Both governments committed themselves in May to implementing the Patten recommendations.''
Peter Mandelson is due to announce a £220 million redundancy package for RUC officers taking early retirement. Over 2,000 RUC officers are expected to accept the retirement package within the next two years. Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor has threatened to scupper the Assembly and the executive if the RUC's name is not retained.
Meanwhile, South Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Hayes has demanded answers from the RUC after two men in the Markets area were told that files containing their personal details were in the hands of loyalists.
Hayes accused the RUC of building up intelligence files on members of the nationalist community. And urged NIO security minister Adam Ingram to clarify the extent of RUC intelligence gathering.