September 25 2000
Sinn Fein presents analysis of Policing Bill
Sinn Fein this morning held a press conference to release its latest detailed assessment of the outstanding differences between the Patten proposals and the British government's Policing Bill.
The press conference was Chaired by the Party President Gerry Adams MP, MLA and included Health Minister Bairbre de Brún, Education Minister Martin McGuinness and the party's full Assembly team.
Speaking at the conference Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said:
Our report today is an indictment of the British government's failure to honour its commitments on policing. It exposes as empty rhetoric the British government's claim that they have honoured their promise to ``fully implement Patten''.
We have provided the British, Irish and U.S. governments with copies of this report. It will be made available to political parties in Ireland, Britain and the U.S., as well as to human rights and justice agencies.
Sinn Fein has privately and publicly rehearsed the core areas of >concern many times. We are not alone in this. The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and the Deputy First Minister, Séamus Mallon, have categorically called for the full implementation of the Patten Report recommendations.
However, the British Government while making some welcome change has ignored both the breadth and substance of the representations made.
In consequence the gap between British Government proposals and the benchmark Patten recommendations is significant and would/could adversely effect everything the Good Friday Agreement is about.
Patten envisaged a transition from a paramilitary, unrepresentative police force - a unionist militia - to a representative democratically accountable policing service - civic policing - which enjoys the support of the community as a whole. This is what the Good Friday Agreement requires. Nothing less is acceptable.
There has been an ongoing campaign alleging that Sinn Fein does not want a policing service. This is a lie. Sinn Fein and the constituency we represent, as well as society as a whole, deserve a new policing service.
The Patten report if fully implemented, may provide that. The British government's Mandelson Policing Bill does not. This can be redressed. It must be redressed.
Some of the critical areas are:
- Excessive powers are assigned to the British Secretary of State and the Chief Constable. Democratic accountability is dumped.
- The Policing Board is stripped of power, especially in the vital area of inquiries.
- The recommendations for district community and policing arrangements have been emasculated.
- Incredibly there is no provision for nationalist and republican representation in the police service.
- Provision on name, flags and emblems is not as prescribed by Patten.
- The new oath for all officers, the Patten mechanism for compromise between disbandment and undifferentiated continuation of the RUC, has been dumped.
- The role of the Ombudsman, an essential means of modifying police behaviour has been subverted.
- The role of the Oversight Commissioner proposed by the British Government has little resemblance to that in Patten.
- No action is proposed in respect of Patten's recommendations on the Special Branch - the `force within a force' and the Full Time Reserve.
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