Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Maskey challenges DUP over Policing and Justice powers

12 October, 2008


In a speech to party activists in Belfast this afternoon, Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing Alex Maskey said that the irony of the DUP blocking the transfer of policing and justice powers at a time when ordinary people were demanding action on a range of community safety issues was not lost on people.

Mr Maskey said:

"It was Sinn Féin who introduced the policing issue into the political negotiations. It was Sinn Féin who kept the pressure on the British government to deliver on Patten after Peter Mandelson produced his flawed legislation. And once again we find ourselves in the lead in ensuring that the British government deliver on their obligations arising from St. Andrews to transfer policing and justice powers away from London and into hands of locally elected politicians.

"It is ironic that both before and after the negotiation at St. Andrews the DUP put the policing issue up in lights. They attempted to make republican engagement with the new policing structures a precondition to political movement. At the time many believed that the DUP interest was not in policing but in attempting to buy time and scupper efforts to force them into a power sharing arrangement as their room for political manoeuvre lessened.

"Their behaviour in recent months appears to lend weight to that theory. We now have the situation where republicans secured enough in political negotiations and through legislation to allow us to enter into a critical engagement with policing structures. We brought the debate on policing into our community. We were up front with what such an engagement would mean for our party and community. We brought people with us and we delivered.

"Yet the DUP continue to say 'No'. 'No' to policing and justice, 'No' to equality and 'No' to partnership. In most peoples eyes they stand exposed and the irony of their position is not lost on anyone. The DUP have managed to manoeuvre themselves into a position where they are in a power sharing government - despite being opposed to power sharing while at the same time they are blocking building community support for the PSNI through their opposition to transfer when they had previously claimed that this was a prerequisite for progress. It really is long past the time they sorted themselves out.

"We have the bizarre situation where on an almost daily basis DUP MLAs are on the media calling for action on issues of community safety, or repeat offenders bail or attacks on the elderly .They demand a reduction in crime rates and an increase in detection. Yet those very same politicians are the people who are refusing to take these powers into their own hands and begin dealing with these issues. It seems they want to have it both ways. Calling for action, blaming the British government for being unresponsive to local needs while at the same time running away from taking these decisions themselves.

"We have witnessed DUP leaders looking to the Assembly in Scotland for examples of good practice on a number of issues including health policy. Yet that Assembly has identified policing and justice powers and areas to take action in.

"They are introducing measures to tackle drug related and knife crime including new guidelines for prosecutors. Tougher monitoring of sex offenders has been put in place including new legislation dealing with child protection and their initiative introducing Drug Courts has now been mimicked in England and Norway.

"These are examples of local politicians in Scotland attempting to be different. Attempting to respond to the needs of Scottish people as opposed to the requirements of Westminster. Assembly members here should be doing likewise. The DUP are preventing this work happening. And they are preventing it happening - not for ideological reasons - but simply because they are allowing those reactionary elements inside and outside their party who oppose change and oppose this process to set the agenda.

"It is a direct challenge to the two governments. The St. Andrews Agreement is very clear. The DUP are already in default. Sinn Féin will continue to defend the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements and we will continue to ensure that the rights and entitlements of citizens be they on policing and justice or anything else are not subject to the lowest common denominator within political unionism." ENDS

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