Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD - 2006 Ard Fheis speech on Policing, Justice and Community

19 February, 2006

I am urging this Ard Fheis to support the Ard Comhairle motions 425, 426 and 427 all of which are underpinned by the principles detailed in the document 'Core Principles and Values for an All-Ireland Justice Policy' which is also before the Ard Fheis for approval today.

A key difference between Sinn Fein and the other parties is our emphasis on prevention as the best and only sustainable approach to tackling issues of community safety. We recognise that what is required is: intensive and systematic social investment in marginalized areas; early intervention and support services for those at risk of offending; accountable community policing; effective rehabilitation programmes and post-release supervision and; community restorative justice alternatives for most non-violent offenders. What we are proposing here are real solutions that also make economic sense - reducing both the incidence of crime and the high cost of incarceration.

McDowell and the Dublin government by contrast are hell bent on expanding and privatising the prison estate and inflating prison spending thereby reducing the finances available for investment in communities. McDowell's plan to turn the prison system into a massive money-making opportunity for his profiteering buddies is advancing unhindered by his coalition partner Fianna Fail. Last Friday evening tendor documents were published for a private superprison at Thorton Hall, North Dublin. The proposal would bind the state into a financially wasteful Public Private Partnership for 35 years. It doesn't take a sixth sense to see how this will pan out - you only have to look to the sham of the original tendering process for the site. Last year, I told the government that the purchase of Thornton hall stinks to high heaven and indeed may even be corrupt. I stand by my conclusions.

Republicans will not exploit the victims of crime and beleaguered communities for electoral gain as others are attempting. We will not sell gimmicks as solutions to the public as the current FF/PD government are attempting through McDowell's Criminal Justice Bill, as Fianna Gael and Labour are attempting on the doorsteps and through the media; and as New Labour attempted when they introduced ASBOs to the 6 counties. Our communities deserve real solutions and we will deliver them. The motions themselves are self explanatory and I urge delegates to vote in favour of them.

I am also urging this Ard Fheis to support the Ard Comhairle amendment to motion 423. The amendment mandates the party to consider views on the sentencing of sex offenders. I believe the amendment is preferable because the motion as submitted is too general as to be practical. It does not take cognisance of the full range of sexual offences for which people can be convicted. For example it does not differentiate between convictions for violent rape and a statutory rape that might have involved consentual sex between a 17 year old boy and 15 year old girl, for example.

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