13 July 2000
Policing - A New Beginning?
Sinn Fein Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness today launched a document entitled `Policing: A New Beginning?', a 100-page analysis of the Patten Report and the British Government's Police Bill. Mr McGuinness said:
Today the British Government's policing legislation goes to the British House of Lords. This is an appropriate point to take stock of:-
- The gap between the initial British Government proposals and the Patten recommendations;
- Progress to date in bridging that gap;
- Additional progress required.
Sinn Fein's assessment of the gap between Patten and the initial British Government proposals is contained in `Policing: A New Beginning?' which was commissioned by the Sinn FÈin Ard Chomhairle. This shows that:-
- 11 Patten recommendations are being implemented;
- 89 Patten recommendations are being subverted;
- There is insufficient information to make an implementation assessment at this time with regard to 75 recommendations.
Sinn FÈin made the British and Irish governments fully aware of the details of our concerns including in the form of more than 70 amendments which were prepared for the second reading of the Bill in early June.
The sheer volume of complaints from Sinn FÈin, the Irish Government, the SDLP, the Catholic Bishops and others with regard to the initial legislation simply cannot be ignored. The British Government has to move.
The problem now is that the British government disingenuously seeks to locate compromise as being somewhere between their proposals and the Patten recommendations when many nationalists have made clear that, for them, Patten is itself the compromise.
Sinn Fein has consistently made the case that a new beginning to policing also needs to involve:-
- An end to the use of plastic bullets;
- An end to repressive legislation;
- An unarmed policing service;
- The implementation of the conclusions to a thorough going review of the justice system.
We have acknowledged that the Patten recommendations are a threshold which could make a new beginning possible. A new beginning is clearly indispensable.
The view of the Independent Commission on Policing on this matter is categoric and unambiguous. At the launch of their report in September 1999 the Chairman of the Commission, Chris Patten said: ``The recommendations form a package which we firmly believe needs to be implemented comprehensively. We counsel strongly against cherry picking from the report or trying to implement some major elements of it in isolation from others.''
Amendments to the initial British government legislation in the committee stage and third reading of the Bill have moved it back some way in the direction of Patten. This is welcome but it falls far short of what is required across a wide range of issues which the Patten Commission recommendations addressed. The British government still has a substantial distance to go to bring their proposals in line with the Patten threshold.
These issues need to be dealt with in a new implementation plan due to be published in the autumn. More will have to be dealt with in a whole series of codes and regulations. These need to be published and subjected to the same public scrutiny as the legislation itself.
The amount of detail involved in all of this is substantial and will require a continuous process of examination, assessment and review. Sinn Fein will continue to do that in the coming period. Sinn Fein will continue to lobby, campaign and monitor the developing situation.
But what is clear, given the British Government's handling of this to date, is that if the objectives of the Good Friday Agreement with regard to policing are to be achieved, and if British Government's commitments to fully implement Patten are to be honoured, the concerned voices which moved the British Government to the current position will need to maintain their political cohesion and focus.
This is not exclusively a Sinn FÈin issue. It is a core issue for democrats which is of direct importance to such critical matters as equality, justice and peace. A new beginning to policing is indispensable to a successful conflict resolution process.''
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