[Sinn Fein]

9 December 2000

President Clinton's visit provides focus

Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, speaking after a meeting of the party's Ard Chomhairle in Dublin today (Saturday), said:

``There was a long and detailed discussion at today's Ard Chomhairle meeting regarding the issue of policing and Peter Mandelson's Police Act.

``Sinn Fein wants a new policing service and we will not settle for something less than this.  Republicans want and need the security of a decent, democratic and accountable policing service.  

``During the public debate on the Mandelson Police Bill, we said that the Patten Report, if fully implemented, may give us an opportunity to do that.

``The British legislation does not equate to the benchmark Patten recommendations.  This will obviously impact on Sinn Fein's consideration of this issue.  A significant gap still remains in respect of a large number of these recommendations.

``This is, of course, a major concern.  But that is no longer the point for immediate attention.  The time for that will come again.  The point now is: does the British Government's plans meet the prescribed requirements of the Good Friday Agreement in respect of a democratic, accountable policing service capable of attracting the membership and support of the community as a whole - nationalists, republicans and unionists? m/f McLaughlin/Clinton 2

``This is an issue which is central to any society, an issue which is critical to the Irish peace process.  It has to be got right.

``There is an onerous responsibility on all party leaderships to give all of this the fullest consideration.  Sinn Fein will certainly do so.  But we will not be bullied or pressurised by the British government or anyone else in respect of either our decision on the issue or the timing of this.  

``Republicans do not consider the British Government's Police Act as the last word on the issue of policing.  The last word will come from the people without whose support the Act is useless.  No democrat will give their support to something less than a genuinely new beginning to policing, as prescribed by the Good Friday Agreement.''

Commenting on next week's visit to Ireland by President Clinton, Mr. McLaughlin said:

``Sinn Fein welcomes President Clinton's visit and we appreciate the contribution which he has made to the search for peace in this island.  No other US leader has had such a significant, far-sighted and coherent approach.  

``It is clear that the White House is keenly aware of the seriousness of the situation.  While huge progress has been made in recent years, much more needs to be done. President Clinton's visit will allow for a timely focus on all of this.

``There has already been an attempt by the British government and the UUP to use the visit to distract attention from their failure thus far to honour their commitments and obligations.   It is time for the British government to address this issue seriously and honour the commitments which they made.''ENDS

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