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Sinn Féin sets out Policing Agenda

19 November, 2003


Speaking at a press conference in Belfast this morning Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly was joined by party colleagues John O'Dowd, Michelle Gildernew and Alex Maskey as he set out the party's policing agenda.

"Sinn Fein wants to see effective, civic policing. We want to get policing right. Sinn Fein has been central to discussions relating to the future of policing in Ireland.

Sinn Fein put Policing on the agenda of the negotiations in 1997 and we insisted that this issue be directly addressed in the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Fein continues to pursue the agenda of radical change. We have made it a central plank of successive negotiations. The approach of our negotiating team has delivered substantial improvements on policing.

Sinn Fein continued to engage with the British Government to get policing right and to ensure that policing is democratically accountable and representative. Since the Mandelson Act, Sinn Fein have successfully negotiated new legislation both in terms of policing and criminal justice and agreement in principle on the transfer of powers on policing and justice.

In our negotiations with the British Government this year Sinn Fein secured further significant improvements including additional legislative amendments which;

  • Require the British Secretary of State to consult with the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission on key areas of policing objectives;
  • Require the same consultation process respect of Codes of Practice over which the British Secretary of State formerly had a blank cheque;
  • Ensure that the Belfast sub-groups are placed on a par with the District Policing Partnerships.

In addition to these legislative amendments we secured movement on key implementation and operational issues including;

Plastic Bullets

We want to see plastic bullets banned with immediate effect and we intend to hold the British government to their commitment to remove these lethal weapons from service by the end of 2003. This is an advance on the position of the SDLP and the Policing Board, who accepted that plastic bullets would remain in use until at least the end of 2005.

Demilitarisation

We secure a commitment from the British Government to an accelerated process to achieve a demilitarised policing service and we intend to hold them to it.

Special Branch

The corrosive position of the Special Branch at the core of the current policing arrangements has to end. There can be no part in a new beginning to policing for the 'force within a force' which has, as a matter of policy, been involved in the targeting and murder of citizens. Sinn Fein secured commitments from the British Government regarding the roles and powers of the Special Branch and we intend to hold them to it.

Transfer of Powers

Sinn Fein has consistently raised this issue with the British Government. Sinn Fein has secured a commitment from the British Government to transfer these powers and in the recent talks with the UUP we made considerable progress towards Agreement on this issue.

A New Beginning

Sinn Fein continues to engage on policing to secure;

  • An end to paramilitary political policing;
  • The creation of an effective, democratically accountable policing service;
  • All Ireland approaches to Policing and Justice;
  • A routinely unarmed policing service;
  • An end to the Special Branch as a force within a force;
  • The banning of plastic bullets;
  • An end to the use of repressive legislation;
  • Effective inquiries into the murders of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, the Brian Nelson affair, and multiple allegations of collusion between British forces and unionist paramilitary gangs;
  • Root-and-branch reform of the justice system;
  • Transfer of powers on policing and justice to the Assembly;
  • A policing service with human rights and equality at its core;
  • The removal from the PSNI of human rights abusers and those involved in collusion with loyalist death squads.

"We have delivered real progress. We now want to finish the job of creating the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein is the best guarantee of that." ENDS

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