[Sinn Fein]

17th November 200

Sinn Fein respond to GAA rule 21 decision

Speaking following this afternoon's vote by GAA delegates at the special convention Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy has said:

``From the beginning of the debate around rule 21 Sinn Fein made it clear that this was a matter for the GAA.  As a member of the GAA and a lifelong Gael I very much regret the decision taken by the GAA convention.  However I understand why it was taken.

I think it is important to note that five of the six northern counties voted for retention of rule 21.  These are counties that have suffered must as a result of partition, the British military presence in Ireland, and the existence of a paramilitary pro-unionist police force.  In my view this vote reflects the widespread concern about current arrangements and the belief that it does not represent the new beginning to policing set by the Good Friday Agreement.

The British government, the Irish government and indeed the SDLP need to take note of this vote. This was not a vote by delegates in north in support of the new policing arrangements.  On the contrary it is a resounding rejection of those arrangements.  The British government especially needs to realise that if it wants a broad based partnership on policing arrangements to which republicans and nationalists can give our allegiance then it needs to do more to create the conditions in which that can happen.  That means returning to Patton and honouring outstanding commits.  

Let me also add my voice to the appeal for unity within the GAA following this difficult debate. Whatever differences there may be the GAA is first and foremost a great national organisation which has done sterling work in the promotion of Irish sports and culture.  For over 100 years it has promoted all that is best in the Irish nation and it has nurtured our young people developing their skills, their team spirit, their sense of Irishness and their humanity.

The GAA is a unique Irish org and I am proud to be a member of it.

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