A debate on the acceptability of the PSNI police and British Crown courts in the North of Ireland is currently underway within republicanism.

Following the decision of the Sinn Féin leadership to make a controversial change to party policy on the issues, the party is embarking on a series of public meetings in several venues across the north ahead of the special party conference on January 28.

It is thought unlikely the motion, published in full below, will not be approved by over a thousand party delegates drawn from Sinn Féin cumainn (branches) around the country.

Commemorations marking the 35th anniversary of Bloody Sunday takes place in Derry on the same day, providing a poignant bakdrop to the historic conference in Dublin.

As the debate develops within republicanism, Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said yesterday they were playing for “big stakes”.

At a press briefing in Belfast, Mr McGuinness said: “People understand that this is about us taking the control of our own affairs.

“Yes, there is emotionalism in it. This is difficult and people will be exercised and challenged by all of this and some people in the course of the last while have talked about what does this mean for the republican dead.

“I mean, I could have been one of the republican dead in the past.

“Many of my friends are the republican dead... but I don’t call them to support my case.

“The case I put is a very clear case. As Gerry Adams has said this is the right thing to do [sign up to policing] this is the right time to do it.

“The thing about our leadership is when we decide to do something - we go for it.”

DUP leader Ian Paisley said the Sinn Féin decision to call their special conference to take a decision on policing was a step forward.

Mr Paisley, however, called for “full delivery on the ground”.

“Any analysis of the motion allows for several different, if not contradictory, interpretations,” he said.

“The question is do they intend to proceed with offering support to the police and the courts and encouraging their supporters to do so as soon as the motion is passed.

“The DUP will not be moving until there is full delivery on the ground and the DUP will not be found wanting if there is.”

If a government cannot be formed on March 26th, “it will be clear Sinn Féin alone is to blame,” Mr Paisley added.

There were conflcting claims as to when and how the motion, if passed, would begin to take effect. DUP demands for ‘testing’ Sinn Féin’s ‘credentials’ are set to begin immediately, with demands for information to be handed to the PSNI on past republican ‘crimes’.

Sinn Féin’s leadership confirmed their intention to go ahead with the special conference, despite the DUP’s refusal to commit to any deal for the transfer of policing and judicial powers from London to Belfast.

Gerry Adams revealed he has still not had direct talks with Mr Paisley, who refuses to accept his calls.

Mr Adams said Sinn Féin would take the policing initiative regardless of the DUP response.

“The DUP cannot lecture anyone on law and order,” he said.

“The DUP cannot test anyone on any issue.

“We’re democrats. The people who we represent have the rights and entitlements the same as anyone else on the basis of equality.”

He criticised unionists for failing to respond positively after the Sinn Féin ard chomhairle agreed a policing motion on December 29.

“There is no defence for what they did because - and I say this not with any anger - when you make a commitment you have to honour the commitment which you make,” he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed as “most historic” Sinn Féin’s move to hold a special conference on endorsing policing.

Mr Blair said there was “no reason” power-sharing cannot return to the North of Ireland if the DUP and Sinn Féin adhere to their commitments.

He did not refer to Paisley’s refutation of the apparent agreement on the issue of policing negotiated over the Christmas.

We have a favour to ask

We want to keep our publication as available as we can, so we need to ask for your help. Irish Republican News takes time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe it makes a difference. If everyone who reads our website helps fund it, our future would be much more secure.

For as little as £1, you can support Irish Republican News – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

© 2007 Irish Republican News