Justice issues raised
BY PEADAR WHELAN
Most of the focus of the Justice and Equality debate was on the situation in the North, the role of the RUC and the British government and their record on human rights.
Just days before the Ard Fheis, the British and the RUC were once again indicted by the European Court of Human Rights and will have to answer charges relating to the shoot to kill operations carried out in the Six Counties.
Gerry Kelly, speaking on behalf of the outgoing Ard Chomhairle, pointed up the fact that in the North, ``we are dealing with the corruption of the justice and the more conscious we become of this the worse the nightmare becomes''.
Kelly stressed that the British government was itself culpable in preventing justice becoming a reality in the North through its role in the killings of defence solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson.
Ard Chomhairle motion called for the publication of the Stevens report into Pat Finucane's killing and the ICPC report into RUC threats against Rosemary Nelson. Other Ard Chomhairle motions supported demands for independent inquiries into the killing of Portadown nationalist Robert Hamill and the Metropolitan Police's killing of IRA Volunteer Diarmuid O'Neill.
A motion from Cúige Chonnacht/Ulaidh supported the demands of the Justice for the Forgotten campaign for a public, judicial inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. So far, the Dublin government has only granted a private inquiry into the bombings, which left 34 people dead.
Drugs-related issues were discussed in this section with two motions criticising the fact that both the RUC and Gardaí allow drug pushers to ply their `trade' in working class areas, without let or hindrance, and harass anti-drugs activists.
The Mairead Farrell cumann from Dublin called on the Ard Fheis to oppose, ``without reservation, the continuing rise of racism in this country''.
The motions on racism dealt not only with racism directed against asylum seekers and people of other ethnic origin but also the racism experienced by Irish Travellers.
The West Belfast Chomhairle Ceantair calling for an inquiry into the employment practices of local councils in the North stating that, ``the Ard Fheis is deeply concerned at the underrepresentation of Catholics, women, ethnic minorities and the disabled in all local councils''. Paul Butler, a member of Lisburn council, accused it ``of abuse of power'' in its underemployment of Catholics on the council's workforce.