[Sinn Fein]

14th December 2001

Business as usual; the new beginning!

Gerry Kelly, MLA (Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Policing)

Since the Mandelson 'Police Bill' was published in May last year and up to the present Sinn Fein has been consistent and adamant that effective powers of inquiry must be given to ensure that the impunity with which the RUC has acted in the past does not become our future. This is critical to a new beginning to policing.

Recent events, reports and revelations again demonstrate the vital necessity for this. They also clearly show that this is not just a 'policing' problem but that it finds its centre in the securocrat empire of the NIO which continues to dominate the British Government's political agenda in a range of ways. More than anything else this is evidenced in the murder of Pat Finucane.

Nelson was granted immunity. Lyttle died of natural causes. Stobie was recently shot dead. Despite his status as a Special Branch agent and a threat to his life, incredibly, was afforded no protection. Not a single Special Branch member, Military Intelligence Officer or NIO securocrat has been held to account. Moreover, the British Police Act 2000, which some would have us believe is the promised new beginning, ensures that they cannot be held accountable. For under this the Chief Constable has the power to refuse to give up information on such activities by Special Branch officers and Special Branch agents. Accordingly the Oversight Commissioner Tom Constantine and the Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan have independently, in recent weeks, complained about the refusal by the Special Branch to co-operate with them and they do not have powers to compel them to do so. Conversely, however, the Chief Constable can reject outright any request for a report on such matters by the Policing Board.

Patten required, and with no ifs, ands or buts about it, that 'bad apples' - his euphemism for human rights abusers in the RUC - have to be dealt with. Not only is there no mechanism to do so but incredibly it is quite likely that RUC members who were in the Special Branch, say 7 years ago at the time of the first IRA cessation, can still be in the Special Branch several years from now; acting with the same impunity; with the same lack of democratic accountability; with the same support, as in the past, from the British Government. The British Government legislation on policing guarantees this. It was crafted to have this effect and any amendment to this mooted so far by the British Government, for some point in the indefinite future will do nothing to resolve this.

The Police Act handcuffs the Policing Board so as to make inquiries into violations of human rights by the RUC virtually impossible by erecting a series of procedural hurdles.

Robust, rigorous and unfettered powers of inquiry are required by the Policing Board and the Ombudsman. We need to know the truth about the murders of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill, Pearse Jordan, and of Sam Devenny, Patrick Rooney, Nora McCabe, and Padraig Kelly. We need to know the truth about collusion between loyalists and the Crown Forces over 300 people were killed. For true accountability, we need to know what happened and why. And once the RUC's 'wall of silence' has been knocked down, only true accountability will ensure that wall can never be rebuilt. That is the guarantee every democrat, nationalist and republican needs: that what has happened will never, ever happen again. That guarantee needs to be in law. If the British government will not do that, then the new beginning to policing cannot commence. The Police Act must be amended to ensure that the legacy of past does not remain the policy of policing in the future.

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