[Sinn Fein]

17 September 2001

Sinn Fein meet Cowen to discuss outstanding issues

Sinn Fein negotiator Gerry Kelly MLA for North Belfast today led a party delegation to meet Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen. The meeting addressed Sinn Fein concerns on policing and issues surrounding the forthcoming Criminal Justice review and the imbalance of representation on the Human Rights Commission in the Six Counties. He also raised the ongoing blockade of the Holy Cross Primary school in Ardoyne.

Mr. Kelly was accompanied by Dr. Dara O'Hagan MLA Upper Bann, Aengus O Snodaigh, Dublin South Central and Councillor Sean Crowe, Dublin South West.

Speaking following the meeting Mr. Kelly said:

``The Good Friday Agreement requires a new beginning to policing. That is a policing service which is representative, free from partisan political control and accountable. The British government Policing Act does not meet these requirements or the requirements of the Patten report.

``Indeed no one is claiming that we have the required new beginning - not the British government and certainly not the Irish government or the SDLP. All accept that there is a gap to be closed, even if there is disagreement on exactly what constitutes that gap.

``The British government Implementation Plan is designed to implement that flawed Policing Act. It does not and cannot amend the legislation. The Policing Board, the Chief Constable or political parties cannot amend this legislation. The only people who can amend the Act are the British government.

``The SDLP and the Irish government's support for the British government's policing proposals have effectively sundered the broad consensus that had emerged on this issue - based on a desire to see the Patten recommendations fully implemented. This is a matter of grave disappointment.

``I trust this will only be a temporary difficulty and while I respect the right of both the government and the SDLP to take up the new position they have now embraced, I believe that this is a premature move. It would have served the national interest and indeed the Good Friday Agreement better if the British government had been faced with a unified demand for it to fulfil its obligations on the issue.

``For instance Patten required that Human Rights abusers in the RUC be dealt with. The British government has refused to create a means for doing this. Instead they have granted a virtual amnesty to those involved in torture, collusion and other abuses.

``Those who have abused Human Rights in the past simply transfer wholesale into the new policing service. There are no powers to weed out these people or to deal effectively with those who abuse human rights in the future. Instead the British government has chosen to formally given protection in the future to people like Special Branch agents and the Special Branch handlers involved in human rights abuses.

``Sinn Fein will continue to highlight our substantive concerns to get them resolved.

``We are committed and determined to achieve an acceptable and accountable police service representative of the community as a whole.''

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