Sinn Féin launches consultation process

Sinn Féin has begun a wide consultation process with party members and supporters before deciding if it will support policing in the Six Counties and the other St Andrews proposals.

The party’s leadership discussed the highly controversial matter with its 53-member Ard Chomhairle during a meeting in Dublin.

Sinn Féin must hold a special Ard Fheis [party conference] in order to change its policy to support the PSNI police -- a key demand by the DUP in return for power-sharing.

Party chairperson Mary Lou McDonald said last night that the consultation will take a number of weeks but that the question of a special Ard Fheis on policing issue didn’t arise at this point.

“We have agreed a process of consultation throughout the entire party, all of the structures right down to the grassroots. That will start immediately. We will have full and genuine dialogue and debate with our people.

“We’re also looking to have a broader aspect of this consultation by reaching into the community.”

Party leader Gerry Adams added: “I’m not in a position at this point to put a proposal to the Ard Chomhairle in relation to an Ard Fheis.

“There is ongoing work so the question of ‘when’ doesn’t arise at this point.”

Ms McDonald said the consultation, which the party said will be about more than simply policing, would take a number of weeks.

“We won’t be taking any shortcuts on it but it is a relatively tight time frame.”

Mr Adams said that his party would not delay the political timetable leading to potential power-sharing in March, but pointed out that a Programme for Government Committee was expected to have began its work by now.

The parties have been asked to indicate their agreement with the St Andrews proposals by November 10.

Sinn Féin activists will come together in Newry next week for a major conference, with planned contributions by “academics and other outside bodies”.

Mr Adams said the only issue they would have to deal with at the special Ard Fheis was whether the party would change its position on the PSNI.

“It is because we are for (law and order) in the context of the North that we have not yet embraced what has been put forward because we have very, very high standards in that regard.

“If you want to ask the experts on this island about bad policing, go and talk to the people who have been through the interrogation centres, who have been through the barracks, who have been on the receiving end of the plastic bullets, who have been victims of collusion.

“Our people know about all these issues,” Mr Adams added.

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