[Sinn Fein]

11 December 2000

Mr. Blair must face up to his responsibilities - Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP, speaking this morning on the eve of President Clinton's visit to Ireland about the current political situation, particularly in relation to the policing and demilitarisation issues, said:

``There is a perception created by the British Government itself, that it is working behind the scenes to achieve movement before President Clinton's visit.  Is the British Government really burning the midnight oil to get movement?  Are they making the effort?  What is happening?


``Well, that is not quite true.  There is a big effort being made to get Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Irish Catholic Bishops and the Irish Government to acquiese to Peter Mandelson's Policing Act.  All the effort is about getting us to accept that the changes that were recommended by Patten, and rejected by the British Government and not included in the Police Act, are now going to be put in an implementation plan.

``Everybody in the British Government, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Irish Government and the Irish Catholic Bishops know that this is impossible.  Why not?

``Because at this time the British don't want to.

``If the British Government really wanted to implement the Patten recommendations, they could do so.  And no one who is truly commtited to a genuinely new beginning to policing can or should give up on this objective.  We should not be bullied, or coaxed or cajoled or pressurised by the British Government, or anyone else in accepting less than our entitlements.

``The point 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?  That is nationalist, republican and unionist?  This is an issue that is central to any society?  It has to be got right.

``The British Government's Policing Act is not the last word on the issue of policing.  The last word will come from the police.  Without their support the British Police Act is useless.  Others may consider that this is as good as it gets and argue for a tactical approach.  But it is a strategic and not a tactical approach.  But it is a strategic and not a tactical approach that is required at this time.  Short termism is out.  All decisions on policing have to be based on a long term view of where the platform provided by the British Government will bring the policing issue.  There is no doubt that if the British Government did the right thing that Irish republicans would have to engage positively even if the outcome did not meet our requirements at this time.

``Republicans want and need the security of a decent, democratic and accountable policing service.  Sinn Fein produced a comprehensive policy on policing long before the Good Friday Agreement.  We would consider and give a fair wind to alternative policing proposals.  The Patten report if fully implemented may give us this opportunity.  The Mandelson Police Act does not.

``So, the British Government must go back to the drawing board.  The Irish Government, the SDLP, the Irish Catholic Bishops and Sinn Fein know this.  So does the British Government. That is why they are trying to fracture the consensus on this issue.

``Of course,  whether the consensus is fractured, whether elements of it acquiesce to what Seamus Mallon described as `chicanery' by the British Government, will be crucial factors in whether the people of this part of the island get the policing service we deserve.

``What's happening on the other issues?


``What are the other issues?

``Demilitarisation is probably the big one.  There are five major British Army/RUC bases in South Armagh alone.  There are also 14 hilltop forts, 31 hilltop spy-posts, and three thousand troops.

``The British Government says it cannot remove any of these because its army won't let it.  The world knows what happens in countries where armies run governments.  I have no doubt that, in due course, Tony Blair will face up to his responsibilities in these matters.

``In the meantime, there has been an outbreak of killings and attempted killing by loyalists.  For a number of families this will be a bleak Christmas.

``President Clinton's visit will undoubtedly provide a timely reminder of how far we have all come.  I have no doubt that, in that context, it will be a huge success and that it will create a dynamic at popular level for the continuation and the development of this process.  But amongst those who are against change, both inside and outside the British system, it will be an incursion which they will have to put up with.''


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