Irish Republican News · March 19, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: POLICING TOPS AGENDA
POLICING TOPS AGENDA

In a week in which key Irish politicians visited the United States to continue talks in Washington on St Patrick's Day, a prominent newspaper advertisement placed by Sinn Fein drew attention to the continuing failure to enact policing reform in the North of Ireland.

The party said it had refused to endorse the PSNI (formerly the RUC) because it was not representative of the community and there were no goals and timetables to achieve this.

The advertisemnt also pointed out that human rights abusers remained; collusion with loyalists continued; fabrication of evidence continued; there was still no democratic accountability; and inquiries into the force's human rights abuses were still being denied.

``Sinn Fein wants policing in the north of Ireland - but we demand the policing service people are entitled to and will not settle for the one the British are prepared to give,'' it read.

The PSNI Chief, Hugh Orde, who is also in Washington, said he believed the Bush administration had noted ``the substantial changes'' that have taken place in policing in the North.

The crime rate has fallen: ``It is a litmus test. You don't achieve those sorts of crime reductions without community support.

``This is a recognition of our determination to deliver first-class policing,'' said Mr Orde.

US President George W Bush's special adviser on the Six Counties, Mitchell Reiss, urged the Sinn Fein leadership to begin a ``constructive dialogue'' woth Hugh Orde.

Dr Reiss suggested that this dialogue should be a first step with a view to having Sinn Fein join the Policing Board.

Dr Reiss was addressing a hearing in Washington on human rights and police reform on Tuesday.

Sinn Fein policing spokes-man Gerry Kelly said that ``meeting Hugh Orde is not the issue''.

He again called for the transfer of power on policing and justice to Stormont. He also said plastic bullets, repressive legislation, militarisation of police barracks and vehicles, and the PSNI Special Branch were among the issues of continuing concern.

``We took our position on policing to the electorate less than six months ago, which included our decision not to participate in a Policing Board that does not have the power to hold the PSNI to account, and it was endorsed by the majority of nationalists.''

Mr Kelly said Sinn Fein viewed the failure of the British government to deliver on its commitments to implement the Patten report as being the biggest obstacle to delivering the new beginning to policing.

On Tuesday, US Congressman Chris Smith chaired a hearing on Capitol Hill focused specifically on policing reform in Northern Ireland.

Others who addressed the hearings included Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan and representatives of human rights organisations.

The hearings were chaired by US Congressman Chris Smith, who said that the lack of significant progress on some of the important recommendations of the Patten Report, four years after the release of the Patten report, was of ``serious concern''.

Rep. Smith said ``unchecked Special Branch powers and unpunished collusion -- hover like a storm cloud threatening a bright future''.

``These problems must be forcefully addressed so that real policing reform can take hold - and maybe even lead the way - regardless of the delays or setbacks in the political developments in the north of Ireland,'' said Smith.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness denied it was under pressure from the White House to sign up to policing.

Mr McGuinness was speaking after meeting the US special envoy Mitchell Reiss in Washington.

``I think we are speaking to an administration that understands the vital importance of getting the Good Friday Agreement implemented,'' he said.

© 2004 Irish Republican News