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Ó Snodaigh calls for comprehensive police reform

30 March, 2003


I commend motion 309 to the Ard Fheis, and I hope that this Ard Fheis will confirm that Sinn Fein will lead the demand for comprehensive police reform across this island as the first step towards the creation of a single police force in a United Ireland.

Sinn Fein has been in the forefront of pressing for necessary root and branch police reform in the 6 counties. We must also be in the forefront of reforming the Garda Siochana, and our objective must be to create the single most effective and accountable police force with the highest standard of human rights compliance in the world. We must stamp out the culture of corruption, of impunity, and of political policing that has taken hold in this state. Nothing less will do.

In this mission we will use the Patten thresholds as the minimum necessary, and we will be guided by the standards for policing set out in the Good Friday Agreement. But we will also be guided by evolving best practice wherever it emerges in the world. African American activists are also pushing the boundaries of civilian oversight and accountability. Canadian First Nations are experimenting with more direct forms of community policing, and we can learn from these experiences as well.

I am pleased to report that Sinn Fein are no longer alone in making these demands. The Human Rights Commission agrees that we need a Police Ombudsman. The Irish Council on Civil Liberties believes not only that the Patten Reforms SHOULD apply to the Gardai as well, but that this is eminently realistic and achievable. And I believe that those Gardai who are genuine in their commitment to serving and safeguarding communities will also welcome these initiatives with open arms, and consider them supportive to their work.

Finally, I also want to lend my support to Motions 317 and 318. As several of my Leinster House colleagues pointed out yesterday, despite the fact that full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects was identified as THE KEY priority for this Government when they took office, this state has still got a long way to go -- and especially in the area of justice. The Offences Against the State Acts have not been repealed. The Castlerea Five are still being held as political hostages, despite the fact that the court has recognised that they are qualifying prisoners. Comrades, we need to increase the pressure for acts of completion by the Irish Government as well.

MOTION 309

Every society needs a police service and every police service needs the support of the communities they serve. For that reason it is imperative that there is total transparency and trust between the police service and the communities. In recent times a number of issues have arisen which can damage public confidence in the Garda Síochana. The Abbeylara shooting, the McBrearty case in Donegal, revelations of fraud in relation to contracts, and criticism by judges in relation to the giving of false evidence in court all damage the relationship between the Gardaí and the communities they are meant to serve.

This Ard Fheis calls for:

- the setting up of a Policing Board

- the setting up of an office of a Garda Ombudsman, independent of the Gardaí, and with power to initiate independent investigations

- the independent investigation, as a matter of urgent priority, of allegations that conversations between detained persons and their legal advisors were routinely taped in Garda Stations

- mandatory use of video taping of interviews with suspects

- appointments to senior Garda positions to be dealt with by an independent board and not by political appointment

- human rights training for all Gardaí

- a review of Garda equipment and procedures to ensure efficient policing in a modern environment

- decentralisation of Garda Síochána structures to ensure that the Gardaí are more accountable and responsive to local policing needs

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