[Sinn Fein]

26th November 2002

Police Ombudsman's powers attacked by British - Adams

Speaking in the Royal Dublin Hotel, Dublin this evening Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA slammed government social and economic policy as set out in the Bill of Estimates and said they would ``increase divisions in what is already a two tier society''.

The Sinn Fein President also said that `yesterdays amending legislation on Policing imposes a significant new restriction on the ability of the Police Ombudsman to root out human rights abusers within the PSNI and among those agents, for example in the UDA and other groups, who work for it.'

Mr. Adams said:

``During the recent election campaign all of the establishment parties avoided the issue of equality. Now there is uproar because the government has continued to ignore this issue.

Equality is absent from the government's spending decisions.

Spending on vitally important public services, such as health, education and housing is to be cut once again.

There is little credibility in any of the establishment parties paying lip service to the Good Friday Agreement while tolerating or being responsible for the development of a two tier society in this part of Ireland.''

Mr. Adams also questioned the attitude of the Dublin establishment to the current crisis in the peace process and criticised the new restrictions imposed on the Police Ombudsman in the north by yesterdays amending legislation.

Mr. Adams said:

``The British and the Irish establishment's version of the peace process had a different script from the one that has been written in recent years.

The rise of Sinn Fein was not part of that script.

Mr. Blair freely admitted this in a recent newspaper interview.

Sinn Fein was to be perhaps a significant but nonetheless small, incohesive element in an anaemic political system in the north.

But it hasn't turned out like that. The Good Friday Agreement has been correctly seen as an instrument of change, real change in real ways in peoples lives.

For that reason nationalists and republicans support it.

For that reason rejectionist unionists oppose it.

For that reason the British government have minimised or diluted or delayed many of the changes it involves.

The Good Friday Agreement is about a new political dispensation on the island of Ireland and a new relationship between Ireland and Britain. It is also about fundamental constitutional and institutional change, as well as a range of cultural, political, social and economic safeguards for all citizens.

Ulster Unionist leaders know this. So do British unionists, those in the British establishment or the London government.

That is why it is so difficult to get them to implement the changes that constitute the Good Friday Agreement.

The British government is a pro-union government. Mr. Blair has made it clear that he `values the union.' His government's strategy or to be more accurate its tactical day to day management of the process, has exacerbated the crisis within unionism and encouraged the rejectionists.

And where stands the Irish government in all of this? The Good Friday Agreement is an international Treaty between the Irish and British governments. They have a joint and co-equal responsibility for its implementation. The British government has no right to act unilaterally on these matters and it needs to be told this again and again.

In particular Irish citizens, victimised and targeted by sectarian violence, have a right to expect effective political protection from our government in Dublin.''

Commenting on the recent Policing amendments published yesterday by the British government the Sinn Fein President said:

``The Police Act prevented the Policing Board from being the accountable mechanism envisaged by Patten.

It did this by giving the Chief Constable the power to refuse the Board information relevant to an enquiry into wrongdoing by members of the Police Force or its agents, in for example the UDA.

At Weston Park the British government and the Irish government agreed a take it or leave it package which included a small number of proposed areas for legislative amendment, which at the time we said did not go far enough.

Weston Park also saw the British government reject, for example, the request for a full independent international judicial inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. Instead a stalling exercise was put forward. And last month, with the postponement once again of the Steven's Inquiry report, we had another instalment in that effort to dodge the truth of the RUC Special Branch and MI5's involvement in the killings of citizens on behalf of the British state.

Yesterday the British government finally published its legislative amendments, and missed an opportunity to put policing back on the Patten track.

Instead the British government extended the restriction on the Policing Board to the Ombudsman significantly undermining the second leg of the accountability mechanism recommended by Patten.

Now both the Policing Board and the Ombudsman are restricted in their ability to inquire into human rights abuses by members of the PSNI and their agents.

In particular this helps ring fence the Special Branch as a `force within a force' and bolsters it against the required changes.

It makes a mockery of democratic and institutional accountability.

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