The DUP has accused Sinn Fein of attempting to “bully” the PSNI into not charging party leader Gerry Adams over IRA activities. Mr Adams is undergoing a fourth day of interrogation following his arrest on Wednesday.
In a statement this morning, the DUP leader and Six-County First Minister Peter Robinson said Sinn Fein has “crossed the line” and should cease criticising the PSNI’s handling of the case.
Mr Adams is undergoing a fourth day of questioning by detectives. There have been reports that Mr Adams has been subjected to ‘17 hours a day of interrogations regarding his alleged IRA membership and knowledge of previous IRA activity.
Extra time granted to the PSNI to question Mr Adams will expire at 8pm this evening.
Robinson has recently targeted Mr Adams, a member of the 26-County parliament, as the main obstruction to unionist policy in the north. Last month he claimed the North’s Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, had been overruled on welfare reforms by the party organisation in Dublin. “It’s the Dail team that drives it now,” Mr Robinson had said. Responding then, Martin McGuinness accused Mr Robinson of also having “crossed the line” by claiming he had agreed a deal.
Yesterday, McGuinness repeated his warning that “an embittered rump” of RUC police are still working for the (now renamed) PSNI and want to destroy the peace process.
Addressing a rally of over a thousand yesterday in Mr Adams’s native west Belfast, Mr McGuinness said: “These people want to settle old scores whatever the political cost.”
But unionists are increasingly demanding that Mr Adams face charges following four days of questioning, and insist that his previous IRA membership is an open secret.
This morning Mr Robinson said: “The PSNI must not be the subject of republican bullyboy tactics. They must be completely free to follow any and all evidence regardless of where it takes them and to decide free of political considerations whether suspects will be charged or not.
“The hive of activity to pressurise the police from charging Adams is obscene politicising of the policing process. I warn Sinn Fein that they have crossed the line and should immediately cease this destructive behaviour.”
On Friday, Mr McGuinness indicated Sinn Fein would review its support for policing arrangements if Mr Adams is charged.
The party’s decision to sign up to support the PSNI in 2007 was viewed as a significant milestone in the peace process and facilitated power-sharing in the Six-County Assembly at Stormont alongside the DUP.
Mr McGuinness told a crowd of over a thousand Sinn Fein supporters and other republicans yesterday: “We worked very hard to reform policing.
“Sinn Fein’s negotiations strategy succeeded in achieving new policing arrangements but we always knew that there remained with the PSNI an embittered rump of the old RUC.
“These people want to settle old scores and they want to do it whatever the political cost.
“No police force in the world is immune from criticism if it is acting in a politically biased and partisan fashion.”
He added: “The arrest of Gerry Adams is evidence that there is an element within the PSNI who are against the peace process and who hate Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein.
“They are what the reformers within the PSNI have described to us as ‘the dark side’.
“They are small in number but very influential. This group is working to a negative and anti-peace process agenda and are actively involved in political policing.”
He pointed out there was a previous attempt to charge Mr Adams with membership of the IRA in 1978, and his current detention was a “replay” of those events.
“That case was based on hearsay, gossip and newspaper articles and it failed then and it will fail now,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted she would not be taking reins of the party while Mr Adams remained in custody.
Speaking on state-run radio, Ms McDonald repeated her claim that Mr Adams’s arrest had been “politically contrived and politically malicious”.
She also said it had raised a “question mark around all of the huge progress we have made over policing in the North”.
“There are no special rules for Gerry Adams. But it is simply wrong for those in policing authorities to misuse their powers in a politically calculated way.”
Ms McDonald said she was “beyond angry” at Adams’s detention and had not spoken directly to him since Wednesday evening when he was on his way to the PSNI interview.
“Whatever gloss people try to put on this matter, the fact is that we are now on May 3 and there will be elections on May 23 and 24 in the south and North of Ireland and the president of Sinn Fein is in custody.”
Ms McDonald also criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore for “making glib commentaries”.
“Instead of dismissing Sinn Fein, they should be looking very closely at all of this.”