[Sinn Fein]

30th March 2003

Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2003

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD speaking on the police reform motion

I commend motion 309 to the Ard Fheis, and I hope that this Ard Fheis will confirm that Sinn Fein will lead the demand for comprehensive police reform across this island as the first step towards the creation of a single police force in a United Ireland.

Sinn Fein has been in the forefront of pressing for necessary root and branch police reform in the 6 counties. We must also be in the forefront of reforming the Garda Siochana, and our objective must be to create the single most effective and accountable police force with the highest standard of human rights compliance in the world. We must stamp out the culture of corruption, of impunity, and of political policing that has taken hold in this state. Nothing less will do.

In this mission we will use the Patten thresholds as the minimum necessary, and we will be guided by the standards for policing set out in the Good Friday Agreement. But we will also be guided by evolving best practice wherever it emerges in the world. African American activists are also pushing the boundaries of civilian oversight and accountability. Canadian First Nations are experimenting with more direct forms of community policing, and we can learn from these experiences as well.

I am pleased to report that Sinn Fein are no longer alone in making these demands. The Human Rights Commission agrees that we need a Police Ombudsman. The Irish Council on Civil Liberties believes not only that the Patten Reforms SHOULD apply to the Gardai as well, but that this is eminently realistic and achievable. And I believe that those Gardai who are genuine in their commitment to serving and safeguarding communities will also welcome these initiatives with open arms, and consider them supportive to their work.

Finally, I also want to lend my support to Motions 317 and 318. As several of my Leinster House colleagues pointed out yesterday, despite the fact that full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects was identified as THE KEY priority for this Government when they took office, this state has still got a long way to go - and especially in the area of justice. The Offences Against the State Acts have not been repealed. The Castlerea Five are still being held as political hostages, despite the fact that the court has recognised that they are qualifying prisoners. Comrades, we need to increase the pressure for acts of completion by the Irish Government as well.

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