In the past ten years this state and this island has seen many changes in policing and justice.
Sinn Féin has been at the forefront of pushing for positive change to transform the delivery of justice on this island.
We have a clear vision of the sort of rights based society we want to see developed across the entire island.
At the centre of this we must strive to achieve the highest standards in policing and justice. In the Six Counties we have worked tirelessly to ensure that justice and policing is representative of the people and the communities they are working for.
Here in the 26 Counties we have a programme of work to fulfil also.
Sinn Féin recognises and supports the essential role of An Garda Síochána and the commitment that the overwhelming majority of gardaí show in fulfilling their duties.
However we believe that changes must be made to ensure An Garda Síochána is protected and strengthened through the establishment of an independent policing authority.
Sinn Féin wants to see an entirely autonomous and independent policing authority in the 26 counties.
We believe that it is important that there is a clear separation of the government from the gardaí and this new independent policing authority would be fully accountable to a representative policing board, to the houses of the Oireachtas.
We also need a stronger policing ombudsman system
and inspectorate as well as Joint Policing Committees with enhanced powers at
Sinn Féin has long called for greater oversight of the Gardaí and we were amongst the first who called for an independent Garda Ombudsman in the 26 Counties.
The Morris Tribunal highlighted many instances where power was abused in the most appalling fashion by some gardaí. The aftermath of that tribunal resulted in the establishment of theGarda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and the Garda Inspectorate.
From the get go the Garda Ombudsman did not have the adequate powers and did not have the ability to truly assert its oversight role and independence.
They themselves have stated that they do not have the ability to do the job that they are asked to do.
We now have clear evidence that the time has come
for real change, real policing independence from the government of the day and
real accountability and oversight at national and local level.
Sinn Féin will soon publish our Gardaí Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2014.
In this bill, our party will present our vision for change and our solutions to the problems so evident over the last 18 months through the penalty points debacle and the failure of senior Garda management to fully cooperate with the Garda Ombudsman.
I want to now speak briefly about equality budgeting –
As Republicans, equality is at the heart of all that we believe in and we strive for this every day in the course of our work and activism. We believe in a new Republic, a republic where all citizens are equal regardless of the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, where they live or what they do.
Creating the conditions for establishing an equal society means recognising that many diverse groups and sections of Irish society need enhanced protection from the State.
In July 2013 Sinn Féin introduced the Equal Status (Amendment) Bill 2013. The Bill sought to amend the existing legislation and aimed to provide for equality proofing of government policy and budgets and public bodies through impact assessments as is the case in the Six Counties thanks to the efforts of our team there.
Had the bill been accepted and passed, it would have ensured that both government and public bodies in exercising their functions do so in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.
We have witnessed and continue to see increases in inequality and poverty, and there is incontrovertible evidence highlighting the disproportionate impact economic policies are having on the most disadvantaged in our society since the beginning of the economic crisis.
Equality budgeting makes sense.
It is fair and it is just and Sinn Féin will continue to campaign with others to achieve it.