Irish Republican News · June 7, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Increased links between Sinn Fein and PSNI
Increased links between Sinn Fein and PSNI

mcguinnessbaggott.jpg

PSNI Chief Matt Baggott has attended a Sinn Fein event for the first time this [Friday] afternoon, marking a new level of co-operation between the main nationalist party in the North and the British Crown police.

Baggott was addressing delegates to a Sinn Fein conference called ‘Belfast: A City of Equals in an Island of Equals’.

The Ulster Unionist party leader Mike Nesbitt had originally agreed to give the main address to the conference at Belfast’s Europa Hotel, but pulled out of the event.

The hotel, for years a symbol of the British policy of normalisation, was a common target for the IRA during the height of the conflict.

Wearing a suit rather than the traditional police uniform, Baggott made his contribution from the floor of the conference.

Mr Baggott described the increased dialogue as “healthy” and “powerful”, but said some issues, such as sectarian parades and inquiries into past state murders, were “toxic”.

“At the moment we are spending huge resources because we are required by law to relentlessly go back into the 70s, 80s and 90s whether that is through inquests or inquiries,” he complained to delegates.

Mr McGuinness lauded the presence of the British head of police as “significant”. He said Baggott’s attendance “recognises the importance of the relationship between policing service and what’s happening in the community.

“And he is also appealing to all sides to help relieve the burden on police, to help find a solution that puts police on the front line,” he said.

The Sinn Fein man also sent best wishes to England’s so-called Duke of Edinburgh, ‘Prince’ Philip Sonderburg-Gluecksburg, who is currently undergoing hospital treatment for an operation on his gut.

Ironically, loyalists protested outside. Up to 20 people held placards which read “PSNI - Gerry Kelly’s puppets” and waved British flags.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, Minister McGuinness and Assembly member Gerry Kelly were heckled as they arrived.

Other invited guests were former loyalist leader Dawn Purvis, Protestant clergymen Harold Good and Gary Mason, and victims’ campaigner Alan McBride.

During his speech, Mr McGuinness revealed he had secretly met with some of the leaders of the flag protests, and again urged nationalist politicians to help relieve police of the burden of dealing with such difficulties.

“During the flag protest I actually met with some of the leaders of the protests. One of them said to me, politically I feel British but culturally I feel Irish.

“Even the comment I am politically British but culturally Irish was common ground that I would stand on with someone that was seen to be in the leadership of the flag protests. I think solutions to all of these big challenges can be found,” he said.

Mr McGuinness said he would love to attend events in loyalist heartlands such as the Shankill Road or Portadown, but there had been no invitations so far.

He also defended his decision to meet and shake hands with the English ‘Queen’, Elizabeth Windsor, during her visit to Belfast last year, and extended good wishes to her partner.

“Even this morning we hear that Prince Philip has been taken to hospital and will be there for the next number of weeks and obviously we wish them well,” he said.

© 2013 Irish Republican News