15th September 2000
Adams Warns on Policing
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP, MLA speaking in Dublin this morning at a conference entitled, `Hope and History' warned that `failure to produce a civic policing service acceptable to nationalists and republicans will seriously subvert confidence in the integrity and credibility of the peace process.'
Mr Adams added:
``The onus is on the British government to prove that it is committed to bringing about the changes necessary for the success of the peace process.
Many people, especially activists, are increasingly sceptical about whether Mr. Blair and Mr. Mandelson are prepared to bring in these changes. The best example of this is on the question of policing. The failure to demilitarise is another. And Peter Mandelson's'draft paper on flags is a clear breach of the Good Friday Agreeement.
A peace process requires all political leaders facing up to their responsibilities. This includes British political leaders and especially those in government. They have to take charge and keep their commitments. They have not done this''.
The British government approach so far to the ``touchstone issue of policing as disastrous''.
``It is true that since the initial publication of the Policing Bill there have been changes to the Bill. This reflects the widespread criticism it attracted from across nationalist opinion in Ireland, as well as in the United States.
Sinn Fein has played a full part in that opposition. We have held numerous public and private meetings with both governments, tackled the issue in a very focused fashion and dealt in detail with amendments if the Bill is to be successfully changed to represent the Patten proposals.
While there have been a number of improvements there remain deep-seated problems.
- The proposed name is not in line with Patten. The political manoeuvrings on this issue have seriosuly damaged nationalist confidence in the British government.
- Current provision continues to give excessive powers to the British Secretary of State. This could harm the independence of the Policing Board which Patten saw as essential. This needs amendment so that responsibility and power is centred on the Board, the chief tool of democratic accountability.
- These execessive powers make the Board and the hief Constable subservient to the Secretary of State in a way which runs wholly contrary to Patten.
- There is no provision for balanced political and religious representation as recommended byu Patten. This is a central objective of the entire exercise but yet there is no provision for it.
- Current provision does not adhere to the Patten recommendations on Flags and Emblems.
- Current provision dilutes and subverts the powers of the Board in respect of inquiries as recommended by Patten.
- Provision in respect of the Ombudsman is wholly contrary to the Patten recommendations which saw this post as essential for modifying police behaviour.
- Patten's recommendations on the role of the Oversight Commissioner is not recognisable in the British government's proposals. The recommended life-span is truncated. The terms of reference are totally subverted. And the independence of the Commissioner in respect of his staff is curtailed by powers in the hands of the British secretary of State.
These are just some of the remaining areas of serious concern.
Regrettably the British government has turned the policing issue into a battleground. It didn't need to be like this. However, it is our view that there is still the time to resolve this issue and create a new policing service which is democratically accountable, will work in partnership with all citizens, and will uphold international standards of human rights. A policing service that reflects the goals set within the Good Friday Agreement and which is supported by the whole community.
That is our goal. Sinn Fein has, and is, working hard to ensure that there is a new policing service. We have doing this because one logical outcome of the peace process, if it is to be successful, must be a policing service which republicans can join and encourage others to join.
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