‘Brace yourselves for new beginning to policing’

07 March 2005
By Senan Hogan

SINN FÉIN has warned its supporters to brace themselves for a new beginning to policing in the North.
Delegates at the Árd Fheis in Dublin were told that if democratically accountable policing is achieved, the party will face fundamental challenges.

Party justice spokesman Gerry Kelly said a special delegate conference would be called if the party reaches its objectives under the Patten Report. “It is not an impossible task and republicans need to be acutely aware that if the republican leadership achieves the objectives set in this area, then this in turn will raise fundamental questions and problems for all activists.

“There is a public commitment if we reach that point to then put a changed policy to our membership and to nationalism as a whole.

“While we are at a substantial distance from that point yet, activists need to realise that we can achieve it and with achievement there is responsibility.”

The party yesterday debated policing motions during which it rejected calls for a boycott of policing initiatives, but delegates passed a motion calling for the Special Branch detective unit to be disbanded.

Speaking on republican participating in policing, Mr Kelly added: “Nobody said it would be easy. Here is the challenge facing us. “as political activists we must rethink strategically, debate strategically and decide what is best for our party.

“But we will pursue proper policing and justice with all our energy.”

Sinn Féin Dublin TD Aengus Ó Snodigh called for reform of the gardaí and said the party was committed to ultimately building an all-Ireland Police Service.

“We recognise that the gardaí are a legitimate police force - albeit one in need of fundamental reform.”

He said Sinn Féin across Dublin were working locally with the gardaí to increase accountability with the community.

Referring to the PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Kelly said: “Hugh Orde needs to know that he is not the justice minister in the North.

“We want to create a new policing service which is representative, accountable and free from partisan political control.”

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