Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP today led a party delegation to meet with the Electoral Commission to discuss the serious shortfall in the Electoral Register. Speaking after the meeting Mr. Doherty said:
"It was reported this week by the Electoral Office that 18,000 people have been added to the register. This is a mere drop in the ocean when you consider that around 180,000 are missing.
"Sinn Féin have serious concerns about the ability of the Electoral Office to deal effectively with this matter. We need to see from the Commission and the Electoral Office serious, radical and detailed plans to bridge the massive gap between the numbers on the register and the numbers identified by the census returns.
"We also have concerns which we raised with the Commission today about the ability of the current system to deliver on the issue of photographic ID.
There are no indications that the system will be able to cope with demand and have the necessary ID issued before a May election.
"Sinn Féin will return to these matters when the party President Gerry Adams MP meets with the Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley on Monday morning."ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh has express anger at the increase of Brucellosis and TB reactors identified in herds here and the deterioration in meeting targets for removal and s laughter.
Mr McHugh said:
"In December we were missing the 15 day target for removing Brucellosis and TB reactors by 4 days for TB and 2 days for Brucellosis. The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture show that the average for removing reactors now stands at 32 days for TB and 21 days for Brucellosis. It is also disappointing that the Chief Veterinary Officer expresses 'satisfaction' at this slippage in meeting the 15-day target identified in December.
"There is a continuing rise in the numbers of Brucellosis and TB reactors in every DVO across the north of Ireland. The number of Brucellosis reactors has jumped by over 27% across the north since December, with a massive jump of over 50% ia delay resulting from insufficient valuers and slaughter capacity. A problem that appears to be deteriorating
"In the last three months there have been over 4350 TB reactors (up from 3,862 in December) and over 200 Brucellosis reactors (up from 161 in December) identified with particularly high levels in Fermanagh, Antrim, Tyrone and Armagh giving rise to concern that not enough is being done.
"This compares very badly with the South where they have practically eradicated Brucellosis and reactors are removed within 4 to 5 working days. In Monaghan and Louth the level is practically nil. This is hitting farmers here who are developing pedigree herds hardest, particularly because of the cap on compensgriculture Minister to ensure that the British Army adhered to movement guidelines when moving through farms but the situation seems to deteriorated further." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, spoke today in the Dáil on the serious crisis facing Irish farmers at the present time. Among the issues which he referred to were the sharp falls in income, the effects of this years budgetary cutbacks, and the apparent exclusion of farmers representatives from the final phase of the talks on a new Social Partnership deal.
Deputy Ferris said;
"I am only too well aware from meeting with farmers in my own constituency that the sector is in serious crisis at the present moment. Income levels have continued to fall and this has placed thousands more farmers on the poverty line or facing having to leave farming. This has been compounded by the cutbacks in Government investment in agriculture.
"While paying lip service to the notion of modernising farming, the most severe cuts are in education and research, rural development, and in schemes desirm."ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation consisting of, Assembly Group Leader, Conor Murphy MLA, Michele Gildernew MP, MLA, Policing and Justice spokesperson, Gerry Kelly MLA, British Desk co-Ordinator, Dodie Mc Guinness and Louth TD, Arthur Morgan, was the first of the parties to meet with the British/Irish Parliamentary Group at Stormont this morning. The Inter-Parliamentary Group is made up of cross-party Members of the Dáil and the British Houses of Parliament.
Speaking on behalf of the delegation following the meeting Gerry Kelly described it as a "useful exchange of views".
Mr Kelly said:
" We raised a series of issue during our discussions with the Inter-Parliamentary Group empathising the negative impact the British governments continuous suspension of the Institutions is having on the whole process. Other issues that we raised included Policing and Justice, Human Rights, Demilitarisation and Equality.
We reminded the BIIPG that we are now entering into a period of intense discussions that the British government has the power to impact positively on by producing its plan for completion of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, has expressed his concern at the manner in which the negotiations on a new Social Partnership deal appear to have concluded. He was speaking following claims by farmers' representatives that the talks had failed to address the main issues of concern to farmers.
Deputy Ferris said; "It is vital that all sections of the community have a real input into the framing of a new deal. It is clear, however, that this has not taken place and that farmers along with others have been excluded from the main decisions. That can only spell disaster as we face into a period of sustained budgetary cut backs.
"The monies cut from agricultural and rural development programmes in the Estimates will have severe consequences throughout rural Ireland over the next few years. Now to compound that, farmers' representatives have to all intents and purposes been left out of the finbe made suffer the consequences of this Government's cuts; whether they be the low paid, elderly, sick, or farmers struggling on the poverty line, have once again not had their say."ENDS
"A Bill of Rights without effective protection mechanisms will only raise expectations, which cannot be fulfilled. All sections of society need to have confidence that the failures of the past will not be repeated. The most effective mechanism to ensure that we move forward and give confidence in the future is, we believe, a constitutional court. This would guarantee the provisions of the Bill of Rights, and uphold the principles of human rights as set out in the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality Aengus Ó Snodaigh this morning attempted to raise in the Dáil, before being ruled 'out of order', the Supreme Court decision that allows for the wholesale deportation of the parents of Irish children simply on the grounds of ethnicity said:
"The Supreme Court decision has reduced thousands of Irish-born children to the status of second class citizens on the basis of their ethnicity alone. This ruling paves the way for the de facto deportation of thousands of these Irish citizens, together with their parents - contravening the rights of these Irish children under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Ireland has ratified. This move will not only encourage racism in Irish society and immigration policy but may also lead to discrimination against women asylum seekers." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin TD to "take on the privileged position of consultants" following the latest report which has highlighted their powerful role within the health services. Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that the Government had failed to reach the target set out in the National Health Strategy for the conclusion of an agreement on a revised contract for hospital consultants.
Commenting on the leaked report of the Brennan Commission, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"For the second time in a week a study of our health services has identified the privileged position occupied by consultants who manipulate the public health services to facilitate their private practice. The Brennan report recommends clear accountability of consultants including a cap on the number of private patients treated in public hospitals. It urges that consultants be required to plan the use of the resources allocated to them.
"This report comes two days after bed-blocking by consultants, resulting in worsening waiting lists and adding to the crisis A and E situation, was highlighted by the CAPITA report.
"In the National Health Strategy (Action 89) the Government promises that 'greater equity for public patients will be sought on a revised contract for hospital consultants'. This was to be achieved by agreement of a revised contract for hospital consultants by the end of 2002. The Government has missed this target. Yesterday I tabled a Dáil question to the Minister for Health and Children asking when an agreement will be reached on a revised contract for hospital consultants. The Minister was unable to indicate when negotiations will conclude or even whether an agreement will be reached.
"Through their professional bodies the consultants have a veto on the deployment of their services throughout the health system. Too often their decisions are based on the career needs of their profession rather than on the healthcare needs of service users. This must change or else reform of the system will prove impossible.
"It is time the Government really challenged the privileged position of consultants. Contracts must be revised and there must be a new relationship which harnesses the skills and dedication of all health professionals to provide true equity and the best possible care." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan has called on the Taoiseach in the Dáil this morning to state unequivocally what steps the Government will take in the event of the US taking unilaterally action against Iraq. Before being ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle Deputy Morgan said:
"In the public interest we require urgent consideration of the failure of the Taoiseach to state yesterday in the House the Government's position on what responses they will take in the event of unilateral action by US armed forces in Iraq. We also need a response to the failure of the Government to schedule a debate in Government time on Iraq even though promises to do so have been made since October." ENDS
Following a meeting between Sinn Féin and the Human Rights Commission today in Belfast, the party's Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson Bairbrede Brún said:
"Sinn Féin requested today's meeting to discuss the nature of the future consultation around the Bill of Rights and to appraise the Commission orther issues we have raised in the talks process.
"It is our view, shared by most parties, that we need a comprehensive and inclusive Bill of Rights to emerge in the time ahead.
"We would be hopeful that there will be progress made among the political parties on this issue in the current talks process.
"The involvement of civic society in the Bill of Rights process is crucial. To this end I welcome the conference being organised by the Human Rights Consortium being held on Monday 3rd February in the Long Gallery where issues relating to what should be contained in a Bill of Rights will be debated."ENDS
Sinn Féin Consumers Affairs spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has accused Ryanair of engaging in "sharp and shady practices" after Aer Rianta revealed that the budget airline was "pocketing money which didn't belong to it". Deputy Morgan made his comments in light of the revelations that emerged from yesterdays Oireachtas Transport Committee meeting. He said:
"Like everybody else I was astonished to hear that Ryanair was pocketing millions of Euro of money which didn't belong to it. There are very serious questions to be asked about the legality of what appears to be very sharp and shady practices. Ryanair must come clean. For years now the public has been bombarded with propaganda from the airline in which it accuses all around it of ripping passengers off with high prices. On the face of it they would appear to be equally guilty of ripping 'no-show' passengers off only in a more underhand and systematic way.
"I will attempt to raise the matter in the Dáil later today and will demand that the Minister for Transport and the Director of Consumer Affairs investigate this issue as a matter of urgency and to initiate proceedings which will prohibit airlines from retaining taxes that they are not entitled to." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP has described this afternoon's meeting with Ambassador Richard Haass as a very good engagement and said that the US Administration stand ready and willing to help the Irish peace process in any way that they can. Today in Washington Mr. McGuinness also met with a cross party delegation of members of Congress and with Senators Dodd and Kennedy.
Mr. McGuinness said:
"Today's meeting with Richard Haass was a very good engagement and is a testament to the huge importance which the White House attaches to the success of the Irish peace process. They are clearly aware of the current difficulties, which we face and stand ready to help in any way that they can.
"I welcome the fact that Ambassador Haas will be in Ireland next week and I hope that this may provide the opportunity for a serious engagement between the parties and the Irish and British governments on all of the outstanding issues. The central focus of all of our efforts at this time must be the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."ENDS
Speaking prior to a meeting of Sinn Féin's five TDs in Leinster House today, the party's Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said they were planning to challenge the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition on "their litany of deceptions since they took office". He also accused the Government of "complacency" and "incompetence". Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"There is a growing public anger at the incompetence and duplicity of this government. The health service is limping from crisis to crisis with the appalling situation in Accident and Emergency departments demonstrating that the National Health Strategy and Fianna Fáil's pre-election promises have been reduced to pipe dreams.
"The School Building Programme has left pupils, teachers and parents in over 250 sub-standard schools with nothing but the vague promise that their plight might be addressed some time in the future.
"People with disabilities have had to take to the streets to protest yet again at cuts which have halted the progress made in recent years and there is still no ease in the housing crisis.
"In the face of public anger at all of this the Coalition has displayed complacency and arrogance, content to rely on their numbers in the Dáil to force through their flawed programme.
"Sinn Féin will hold this government accountable for their litany of deceptions since they took office. The cuts they imposed in the Budget are now being felt throughout the country. We will campaign both inside and outside the Dáil to demand that hospital waiting lists are dramatically reduced; that children are no longer educated in overcrowded and substandard schools; and that there is a fairer distribution of the obvious wealth that exists in this country.
"We will also use this session to robustly challenge the government on the cynical and underhanded tactics it has used to allow Shannon Airport to become a military staging post on the way to war in Iraq. They have displayed a complete disregard for Irish public opinion and their futile attempt to deceive the public about the true nature of the military machine, which they are facilitating, has only served to expose their dishonesty. We will be urging people to support the National Anti-War Demonstration in Dublin on 15th February, to uphold Irish neutrality and independent foreign policy and to urge a peaceful resolution of the present international crisis.
"The Government has insulted people's intelligence and we are determined to call them to account." ENDS
Speaking from the College of St Rose in Albany in America, former Education Minster, Martin McGuinness MP, MLA, has said that political will is required to find a way out of the current political impasse and called for urgent movement from the British government to restore the political institutions it suspended in October.
Martin McGuinness said:
"The democratic institutions agreed and established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement have been unilaterally suspended by the British government. The British government has also publicly accepted that it has failed to fully implement its commitments under the terms of the Agreement.
"Those institutions need to be put back in place urgently. We are currently engaged in negotiations in an attempt to achieve this and I have no doubt that, if there is the political will to work together, we can find a way forward.
"There can be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, The Agreement must be implemented in full. We must see an end to political policing. Our society must be demilitarised, on all sides. There must be an end to discrimination, inequality and sectarianism. Human rights must become a reality for all our people. There is a particular onus on the British government to deliver on these obligations.
"Despite the recurring difficulties, substantial progress has been made. Only a very short time ago a vicious circle of injustice, inequality and conflict afflicted us in the north of Ireland. In a relatively short period of time the political landscape has been transformed and we have provided the hope, if not yet the certainty, that the failures and injustices of the past can be addressed effectively so that they will never be repeated." ENDS
Speaking after attending a press conference organised by Community Platform in relation the Social Partnership negotiations Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community, Social and Family Affairs Seán Crowe said he agreed with their analysis, which questioned the government's commitment to real social partnership.
Deputy Crowe said:
"The Governments rhetoric on the issues of social inclusion in advance of the last general election has now well and truly been exposed as a sham. Their pledge to provide 200,000 extra people with a medical has come to nothing. Their pledge to tackle poverty with social welfare increases was meaningless when rising costs and inflation meant people were in reality worse off. The housing crisis and the number of homeless people on the streets continue to grow unabated.
"There is no evidence to suggest that their commitment to redressing the massive social imbalance that exists in this state will emerge from this round of negotiations on social partnership.
"The reality is that the gap between rich and poor has widened in the many years of social partnership deals. Those most vulnerable in society continue to be disadvantaged by government policies.
"I support Community Platform in their efforts to have the voices of people living in poverty and suffering discrimination heard and represented at the negotiation table. For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to demand government policies that will make Ireland a just and more equal place to live." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has expressed his support and that of his party for groups representing people with disabilities who will protest tomorrow (Tuesday 28 January) at the Taoiseach's launch of the European Year of People with Disabilities.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said the protest was "inevitable" given the cut in the budget for services for people with intellectual disabilities in particular. He said the cut from €38 million in 2003 to €13.3 million in 2004 means that existing services cannot be maintained. He said:
"One of the most neglected groups of people in this country for decades have been people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Progress has been made and acknowledged in recent years but the savage cut in the Budget allocated to the health boards for mentally handicapped services in 2004 - from €38 million to €13.3 million - is a total disgrace.
"This cut has been described as disastrous by the Federation of Voluntary Bodies and by the National Association of the Mentally Handicapped of Ireland as bringing us back to the mid-1990s. The caring agencies and voluntary bodies cannot maintain existing services let alone proceed with badly needed new developments. It will mean longer waiting lists for day care, respite care and long-term residential care.
"The scandal of nearly 500 people with intellectual disabilities detained inappropriately in psychiatric institutions is set to continue.
"These are very vulnerable people. Carers of the mentally handicapped are mostly themselves elderly people trying to cope and living with the worry of what will become of their children when they die. The Government should make an immediate commitment to reverse this callous cut. Otherwise its endorsement of European Year of People with Disabilities will ring hollow." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, has accused Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh of being dangerously inconsistent on the current proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. Deputy Ferris claimed, for example, that Walsh had given two completely different interpretations of the FAPRI report on the effects of decoupling. Deputy Ferris said that this was in line with the Minister's lack of engagement with the current reform process and that the Irish Government was being negligent in failing to put forward concrete proposals in opposition to those they felt would be harmful to Irish farmers.
Deputy Ferris said:
"There is no doubt that aspects of the Fischler proposals do amount to a threat to Irish farming. However, the CAP does need to be changed and this Government needs to be making its own proposals as to how this should take place. It is not good enough simply to demand that there be no reform of a system that has clearly failed tens of thousands of Irish farmers over the past 30 years.
"Farmers will be badly served by a tactic of relying on the French veto which will not safeguard specific Irish interests. Where the proposals contain measures that are agreed to be harmful then they must be opposed. However, there must also be a willingness to examine where some of the proposals could be beneficial and to suggest changes where necessary. Farming and rural Ireland in general are in crisis and burying your head in the sand is not going to solve those problems. What is needed is a radical overhaul of the entire thrust of agriculture and rural development policy at EU and national level." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh has described reports that the Minister for Transport Seamus Brennan has authorised the transportation of munitions of war through Shannon Airport as a "corruption of the democratic will of the Irish people" and "an act of political and moral cowardice".
Speaking after several Sunday newspapers reported that the Minister had only this week authorised the transportation of the munitions Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"It's becoming very clear that Irish laws were systematically broken with the connivance of the Government during the weeks and months prior to Seamus Brennan giving this authorisation. That he done so in secret without any publicity or fanfare or without the approval of the Dáil is a clear indication that this Government is out of step with the electorate on this very important issue.
"The Governments position on allowing Shannon Airport to be used by the US military in preparing for war on Iraq is a corruption of the democratic will of the Irish people. The prostitution of our neutrality by Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and now Seamus Brennan makes it obvious that those who voted Yes during the Nice Treaty referendum on the basis that neutrality would be protected were conned on a large scale.
"This move by the Fianna Fáil/PD coalition is a dishonest act of political and moral cowardice that clearly goes against the wishes of the majority of Irish people and must be reversed." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will tell the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle meeting in Dublin tomorrow, Saturday 25th, that republicans must be prepared to continue their essential contribution to the Peace Process. Mr Adams will say that Sinn Fein's approach to the upcoming negotiations will be on a principled and realistic basis. Mr. Adams will stress that:-
· The Good Friday Agreement is the only show in town.
· The IRA is not a threat to the peace process. The British government and the unionists know this.
· The IRA has given a fair wind to the Agreement.
· The unionists have not been selling the Agreement. Instead they have been seeking to dilute and renegotiate.
· The British and Irish governments have pandered to them and have encouraged them in this approach.
· Anti-Agreement unionist violence has been tolerated, and tacitly encouraged, by British securocrats.ic imperative must be given precedence both as a matter of principle and as a counter to a contrived strategy of instability. The requires that:-
· The elections scheduled for 1 May 2003 must go ahead.
· The British government must end its veto over the institutions. Their legislation to suspend the institutions which was enacted on unionist demands must be repealed.
· The stunted process to create an acceptable policing service must be got back on track and rapidly concluded.
· The justice system shaped by unionist domination and Britain's military imperatives in Ireland must be transformed.
· Equality must be realised and delivered.
· The demilitarisation of society must be brought forward rapidly.
"These are all requirements of the Good Friday Agreement to which the British government and the Ulster Unionist Party are signatories. There is nothing new about them save the British Prime Minister's acceptance that his government has not been fulfilling its obligations across the board on these issues.
"When I say that the IRA is not the cause of the crisis, this is not to suggest that allegations of IRA activities do not cause political difficulties in the unionist constituency. They do of course. And regardless of whether they are real or unfounded Irish republicans know that, because ongoing activities by British intelligence, the British Army, the police force and unionist paramilitaries cause political difficulties in our community. Particularly against a backdrop of unionist contrived
perpetual political crisis which is at the centre of attempts to wreck or renegotiate the Agreement.
"But these are problems to be addressed and resolved, not reasons for wrecking the Agreement.
"The British Prime Minister has put his finger on the route to doing this. His frank admission that his government has not been implementing the Agreement is a tacit acceptance of the analysis Sinn Fein has been making all along. The Agreement, the political contract and primary device for creating the conditions in which all armed groups can be removed from the political arena, has not and is not being implemented.
"Instead the failed politics of dealing with the symptoms of conflict rather than its causes looms large over the situation. It is a well worn route into cul-de-sac politics and usually involves making pre-conditions out of objectives of the peace process."
Concluding Mr Adams will tell the Sinn Féin Executive:
"Recognising all of the difficulties, and conscious of real concerns,as opposed to excuses for contrived scenarios and situations, Sinn Fein will explore any possibilities Mr Blair's current negotiation open up.
"While we welcome the British Prime Minister's acknowledgement that the British government is not and has not been implementing the Agreement. We are also mindful of their claims to the contrary over the past four and a half years and the politically debilitating effect of this. Nonetheless, we will explore with Mr Blair and the Irish government, their commitment to rectify this.
"The effect of this bad faith by the British government should not be underestimated. Their credibility in the republican constituency is low." ENDS
Sinn Fein spokesperson on Policing and Justice, Gerry Kelly, MLA, today called for the powers on policing and justice to be transferred to the Assembly and North/South Ministerial Council.
Launching a Sinn Fein discussion document on the issue Mr. Kelly said,
"Proper policing and justice structures are essential if we are to move away from the injustices and abuses of the past. The starting point for the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement has to be the full and faithful implementation of the Patten recommendations. The British government has not delivered Patten in full. This is the minimum threshold.
" In terms of the Criminal Justice system, the British government's position falls far short of the fundamental overhaul envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement. The justice system must be radically reshaped to create a system which has the confidence of all our people. The British Government has not yet delivered this. As with the Patten recommendations these# changes are essential if we are to achieve an acceptable justice system.
" In line with the Good Friday Agreement and in the context of the full and faithful implementation of the Patten recommendations, Sinn Fein wishes to see the early transfer of powers on policing and justice to the Assembly and the North/South Ministerial Council.
* Transfer of powers in the areas of policing and justice to the Northern Assembly and Executive;
* Comprehensive North-South arrangements in relation to policing and justice
* Judicial transformation; and
* An end to repressive legislation;
" We need to see the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement restored. In this context the issues of policing and justice should be matters for local democratic accountability.
" The principles in the Good Friday Agreement in respect of institutions established under the aegis of the Agreement - the safeguards, checks and balances and an All-Ireland character - need to be applied to structures governing the issues of policing and justice. This will entrench the democratic accountability which is critical to a new beginning to policing and justice in this society. " ENDS
Editors Note: Sinn Féin views on this issue have been given to the two governments. Sinn Féin will be circulating this discussion paper to the other political parties North and South, to the community sector and other interested bodies and we will welcome comments on it.
24th January 2003
Sinn Fein Discussion Paper
Transfer of Policing and Justice Powers.
Neither the police force nor the legal, judicial and administrative system in the north of Ireland have,historically, enjoyed the support of nationalists and republicans because of the overwhelming British and Unionist ethos and their overt political and cultural opposition to Irish nationalism and republicanism.
Achieving a police service and justice system which has the confidence and enjoys the support of the entire community will require a new attitude which breaks with the minimalist approach to change which has characterised this debate since the publication of the Patten Report.
Specifically it requires that the Patten recommendations be implemented in full. This is the minimum base line from which we can start to build a police service which is representative of our entire community.
As well as the Patten recommendations, the process of change in the Criminal Justice system is central to the process of achieving an acceptable police service and justice system. This process of change must be accelerated.
In line with the Good Friday Agreement and in the context of the full and faithful implementation of the Patten recommendations, Sinn Fein wishes to see the early transfer of powers on policing and justice to the Assembly and the North/South Ministerial Council.
· Transfer of powers in the areas of policing and justice to the Northern Assembly and Executive;
· Comprehensive North-South arrangements in relation to policing and justice consequential upon transfer;
· Judicial transformation; and
· An end to repressive legislation;
Both the Good Friday Agreement and the NI Act 1998 envisaged the transfer of powers on policing and criminal justice matters. This process was also envisaged both in the Patten Report and in the Criminal Justice Review. This matter should now be addressed.
Powers to be transferred
All relevant reserved and excepted matters relating to policing and criminal justice should be transferred.
Transfer of powers on justice and policing must be accompanied by all-Ireland institutional architecture under the aegis of the North/South Ministerial Council.
The imperative in relation to justice and policing issues, then, becomes "to develop [in the NSMC] consultation, co-operation and action on an all-island and cross border basis..."
This should be developed through the creation of two separate implementation bodies in relation to justice and policing. The remits of the two All-Ireland Implementation Bodies should include, among other functions:
· co-operation between accountability mechanisms
· development of Judicial Services Commission, the all-Ireland Constitutional Court, Law Reform Commission, and joint approaches by the Judicial Appointments Commission in the north and the Judicial Appointments Board in the south
· joint studies on restorative justice;
· harmonisation of accreditation in the legal profession;
· harmonisation of terms and conditions of service in matters of justice and policing;
· development of an all-Ireland police training college;
· co-operation on matters of public order policing;
· compilation of an all-Ireland sex offenders register and harmonisation of criminal investigation procedures and sentencing for sex offenders;
· joint studies on drug misuse and unified action on an all-Ireland basis to prevent, detect and prosecute drug-dealers.
· progressive harmonisation of both Irish systems of law,
Following on from the transfer of functions in the justice field, the NSMC should also bring forward proposals to enable judges from either jurisdiction on the island to function in the other.
Proposals should also be brought forward under the aegis of the NSMC for the harmonisation of mechanisms for dealing with judicial misbehaviour or wrongdoing.
The judiciary in any society can play a key role in defining the parameters of acceptable police behaviour. The north of Ireland has long been particularly deficient in this regard given the close connection between Unionism and the judiciary, and the identification of Unionism with the RUC. The goal in this sphere must be the transformation of the northern judiciary from its present partisan position to one in which it is representative of this society in terms of political background, religion, gender and class.
The single most effective step that could be taken in this regard would be the creation of a new Constitutional Court for Ireland. This court should provide the final adjudication at national level on all constitutional and human rights questions. Its membership should be drawn from new appointees to the bench from the legal professions, from legal academics with expertise in the area, as well as from the ranks of the existing judiciary. A precursor should be the creation of a Constitutional Court for the north of Ireland which would include judges from the south. The constitutional court's functions should include:
· dealing with human rights issues arising from the bill of rights in the north and equivalent 26 county issues on appeal from lower courts,
· the interpretation of matters relating to the implementation of the GFA on an all-island basis,
· consideration of the impact of international human rights instruments.
Repressive legislation must be abolished. The relevant legislation is now the Terrorism Act 2000 (Part 5) which has unified the NI (Emergency Provisions) Acts and Prevention of Terrorism Acts into a composite piece of legislation.
The repeal of that part of the Terrorism Act 2000 (i.e. Part 5) relating to the 6 counties is required.
A number of other issues should be addressed. These include:
· legislation governing inquests,
· the standards governing the use of lethal force,
· freedom of information,
· the eradication of "criminal convictions" obtained under emergency legislation.
The final area to be considered in the context of transfer of justice and policing powers concerns those who will administer, advise and implement these most sensitive areas of authority.
· All representatives of the British intelligence services should be withdrawn from the civil service committees and from the civil service as a whole.
· A reform package should be put in place calculated to maximise rotation of posts as between those civil service units with responsibility in the areas of justice and policing and other units/departments.
· Arrangements to ensure community and gender balance at all levels of these important administrative sections are essential. As the Patten report pointed out, there is a pressing need to ensure that the composition of civil service units in the area of policing -- but it applies also to justice -- are broadly reflective of the political, religious and gender make-up of society.ENDS