A meeting of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle [leadership] to discuss policing arrangements in the North of Ireland has been called by party leader Gerry Adams in a move which could lead to Sinn Féin controversially agreeing to support the PSNI police.
It will be held tomorrow at 1pm in Dublin.
Mr Adams said: “I will put a motion to the Ard Chomhairle asking it to convene a special Ard Fheis [party conference] on the policing issue. If the ard chomhairle agrees to that motion and others including the two governments and the DUP leadership respond positively, the Ard Fheis will go ahead in January.”
The special party conference is being called to agree the necessary change in party policy required to give Sinn Féin’s support to the PSNI police, demanded by Ian Paisley’s DUP as a precondition for the return of power-sharing in Belfast.
Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness yesterday reported “considerable progress” in recent talks with Dublin and London government officials about policing and justice, although the details of any agreement have not yet been revealed.
Mr McGuinness said both Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were involved in discussions which have continued over the Christmas break.
Issues understood to have been under discussion have concerned when and how policing and justice would be administered by the power-sharing Executive after elections to the Belfast Assembly planned in March.
Mr Adams said today that since the Good Friday Agreement was signed eight years ago policing had been top of the party’s agenda.
Speaking to Irish television, Mr Adams said the North of Ireland was “in a time of transition” and people were trying “to get to a better place”. He admitted that the move was a gamble, but he wanted to provide leadership and insisted it was “the right thing to do”.
Mr Adams plans to give a full report on the negotiations to the Ard Chomhairle and if it supports his motion to convene an Ard Fheis, a period of intensive discussion within the party led by party chairwoman Mary Lou McDonald will ensue.
Mr Adams said: “In addition Sinn Féin will engage in a series of meetings with the wider republican and nationalist community across the island, including the families of our patriot dead and victims of state murder and collusion.
“Given the history of repressive and sectarian policing in the Six Counties, I don’t want to underestimate the difficulties that this issue presents for many nationalists and republicans.
“However, the achievement of a new beginning to policing, as promised in the Good Friday Agreement would be an enormous accomplishment. And I believe that we have now reached the point of taking the next necessary step.”