[Sinn Fein]

16th May 2003

Irish Government should withdraw Police Co-operation Bill in protest at cancellation of Assembly election

Sinn Fein Dáil Leader speaking to the Garda Siochana (Police Co-operation) Bill 2003 said:

``This Bill is premature and should not have been brought before the Dáil by the Government.

``The day before yesterday the Taoiseach stated that, ``the British government has made its position very clear - that its war is over''. When was this said and by whom? Where is the evidence to support this extravagant claim? The British Government has never even acknowledged that it was in fact engaged in a war in Ireland, in the face of all the evidence and in the face of Irish opinion, international opinion and indeed domestic British opinion.

``The type of wishful thinking displayed by the Taoiseach, therefore, is very worrying when we come to a piece of legislation such as this. Make no mistake this legislation is very far-reaching in its implications. It amounts to an endorsement by this Oireachtas of the PSNI as its stands. And as it stands now the PSNI does not have cross-community support in the Six Counties. The legacy of the RUC has not been banished and we do not yet have a new beginning to policing.

``Promised further reforms of the PSNI have not yet been implemented. Most crucially policing and justice powers still reside with the British government in London and have not been transferred to elected representatives in the Six Counties.

``We cannot address this legislation without considering the disgraceful decision of the British Prime Minister to postpone indefinitely the Assembly elections which, should have been held on 29 May. Progress on all fronts in the peace process, including policing, has been put in jeopardy by the action of the British government in cancelling the election.

``For that reason alone this Bill should be withdrawn. I urge the Government not to proceed with the Bill as a clear signal to the British government that this Oireachtas will not tolerate the unilateral suspension of an Irish election by order of a British Prime Minister in London.

``That alone is a good enough reason to oppose the Bill. But there are other important reasons.

``The term `new beginning' is frequently used in relation to policing. I am concerned that this bill represents not a new beginning but a continuation of bad old practice and flawed thinking.

``Much of the truth about collusion between the RUC, British intelligence and loyalist death squads is only now emerging. The Stevens Report is an attempt to manage and contain these damning revelations in a way that is least damaging to the British establishment. But the revelations of the crimes of the British government in Ireland could hardly be more damning. Let it be remembered then, that throughout the period of greatest collusion there was full co-operation between the sectarian RUC, an arm of the British war machine, and the Garda Síochána, including exchange of information. The gardai shared information about individuals with the RUC, a force which was widely known to be passing on intelligence information to loyalist paramilitaries. We have to get rid of that legacy also.

``The British officer who ran the Force Research Unit for years, Brigadier Gordon Kerr, is still a very high-ranking member of the British forces. He was sent to a senior post in the occupying forces in Iraq. He ran agents including Brian Nelson and with his colleagues was responsible for the web of collusion, which saw British forces targeting people for assassination.

``In his book just published the loyalist Michael Stone claims that the RUC actively assisted him in his attack when he murdered three people at a republican funeral in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast in 1988. This is but the latest revelation.

``Stevens has not been published in full. There are no independent inquiries into the murders of Pat Finuance and Rosemary Nelson and Eddie Fullerton, to name but three. In this jurisdiction the 29thth anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is next Saturday and the injured and bereaved families are forced to protest at the delay in publication of the Barron Report.

``Under this Bill we could have PSNI officers with questions to answer in relation to these and other matters serving in the gardai. The Bill is an endorsement of a force that has yet to meet the human rights standards to which we are entitled.

``I again urge the Government to withdraw the Bill.'' ENDS

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