Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Raymond McCartney - Justice - Ard Fheis 2012

25 May, 2012

Prior to the 2007 Assembly elections Sinn Féin set out a number of objectives around achieving fully democratically accountable policing and justice structures in the North.

Fundamental to those objectives was the transfer of Policing and Justice powers from Westminster to the Assembly and all-Ireland Ministerial Council.

Others said that we would never succeed but as with other seemingly intractable issues, through perseverance, determination and negotiation skills - we once again confounded the naysayers.
In 2007 Alex Maskey, Martina Anderson and Daithi McKay took their places on the Policing Board and since April 2010 the Department of Justice has been in existence within the structures of government in the North. Sinn Fein has been to the fore of holding the Department to account and also shaping policy to bring about a fair and equitable justice system.
But simply because Policing and Justice are now under democratic control does not mean that much more change is required.

Indeed there are many issues which require radical reform and continuing scrutiny.
That is our challenge and that is our work.

Sinn Fein has played a critical role in exposing the lack of leadership and political interference within the Police Ombudsman’s Office. We brought to public attention how this interference was undermining confidence in the vital role this Office plays in accountable policing.

Sinn Fein publicly stated that under the leadership of Al Hutchison public confidence was being severely undermined and that he had no role in bringing that office back to where it needed to be.

Al Hutchison departure removes an critical obstacle to restoring and we welcome the appointment of Michael Maguire. He as the head of Criminal Justice Inspectorate is aware of the task and challenge before him. We pledge our support to make the Office the effective accountability mechanism it has to be.

Our members on the Policing Board have exposed the practice of retiring and rehiring for what it is – an attempt to circumvent normal standards and practices. In the old days this would have went undetected so the efforts of Gerry Kelly Pat Sheehan and Caitriona Ruane and their advisory group should be commended.

We welcome yesterday’s intervention by NIPSA in calling retiring and rehiring as jobs for the boys. The space to make this statement was created by Sinn Fein.

I want to put on record an acknowledgement of great work carried out by our members on the DPPs, we have turned them into the accountability mechanism that they were designed to be.
Their work will continue on the Policing and Community Partnerships. Some want to curtail their role, and fought and shaped them to ensure that accountability was one of their guiding principles.

Sinn Fein at Hillsborough sought and achieved at Hillsborough the need for radical reform of the Prison Service in the North. The Owers Team has outlined the way forward and we will ensure that reforms delivered. Now is the time for the old regime to move aside and the exit scheme for prison warders is freeing the prison system of the old customs and practices which stand in stark contrast of the needs of imprisonment in 2012.

Our work on the Youth Justice Review, the reform of the criminal justice system continues and will help us in providing a fair and equitable system of justice.

This Ard Fheis in motions call for the release of Martin Corey and Marian Price – our position is clear no one should be held on the revocation of a conflict related life sentence.

Under the terms of Weston Park Gerry McGeough should not be in prison.

Our work to promote a fair and equitable justice system will continue, we face many challenges and we meet resistance from those who oppose to change, those unaccustomed or resentful to scrutiny and being accountable - but that is a challenge we will face head on, confident in our ability to deliver and strengthened by the successes of the past year and beyond.

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