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Matt Baggott has lost confidence of republican and nationalist people

13 April, 2013 - by Gerry Kelly

A Chairde, Tá sé cúig bhliain déag ó síníodh Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta. Tá sé ceithre bhliain déag óna foilsíodh Tuairisc an Choimisiún Patten agus na céad ‘is seachtó a cúig Moltaí chun aghaidh na póilíneacht a athrú sa tuaisceart go deo. It is 15 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

It is 14 years since the Patten Commission published 175 recommendations, which would change the face of policing in the North forever. The importance of this development can be best illustrated in the resistance there was to it by the old guard RUC, Unionist politicians and the British securocrats. It would take 8 years of negotiation to turn those recommendations into law. Only then did the Special Ard Fheis in 2007 pass a motion to support the new policing structures. It was passed, on the basis of critical support – very deliberately, because although the legislation was essential, implementation was also crucial. In fact the transfer of powers on policing away from London and into local hands, didn’t happen until 2010. Sinn Fein’s position is set out in Motion 157 today. We want a non-partisan, non-political, civic police service, which is Human Rights compliant and representative of the whole community. Are there those within the system still trying to hold back those objectives? Clearly there are. The evidence is there: The old guard interfering with the Ombudsman’s Office; the refusal to give crucial evidence to inquests; the scandal of rehiring retired officers on huge financial severance packages; the different approaches to civilians and those with military backgrounds in HET investigations; the different approaches in policing between loyalist and republican demonstrations as witnessed in the so-called “Flag Protests”. Some months back Matt Baggott the PSNI Chief Constable indicated publicly that he wanted to attend a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. He then followed that up by tasking the PSNI to facilitate illegal loyalist parades and by his action, left the Short Strand area open to continuous sectarian abuse and physical attack. You might note his absence from our gathering here today. He has lost the confidence of the Republican and Nationalist people and if he is in any doubt about that, let him hear it from this Ard Fheis. Police accountability cannot be conditional. However community consent for policing is: • If the Chief Constable cannot be impartial how can we expect those who serve under him to act impartially. • There is a crisis of confidence and it needs to be addressed by the collective leadership of the PSNI as a matter of urgency. The debate that goes on about the PSNI must also be going on within the PSNI. • Differential Policing must stop. The PSNI must be seen to be impartial I sit on the policing board for Sinn Féin along with Caitríona Ruane and Pat Sheehan. Our job and intent is to hold the police to account. However, let me say this. There are also those within the PSNI who are up for the challenge, who believe in the new dispensation and who get it when we say that the greatest asset any policing service will have is the consent and confidence of the community it serves. But, and it is a big ‘BUT’, confidence has to be earned. Young people like Ronan Kerr and Phillipa Reynolds or Stephen Carroll bought into the new beginning to policing and gave their lives for it. They wanted to work with the community and other public bodies to prevent harm from, sex-offenders; car thieves; drug dealers; human traffickers; anti-social elements and other criminals, as well as from sectarian harassment. These are essential parts of providing an effective public service. We need more people like them. We engage with and encourage close working relationships with the other accountability organisations such as the Police Ombudsman; Policing and Community Safety Partnerships, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate; the Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee and the Justice Committee. Is é an aidhm atá againn ná leas a bhaint as an oiread saineolais agus is féidir linn le déanamh cinnte go bhfaigheann muid seachadadh na seirbhíse póilíneachta atá de dhíth ar dhaoine agus atá tuillte acu. Our aim is to harness all the expertise we can to make sure we get delivery of the police service, which people need and deserve. The strongest allies of good policing are those who have experienced exceptionally bad policing. That includes many, many of you sitting here today. Our objective is to have legislation North and South which will provide equivalence in powers of Policing and accountability. Is mian linn go gcaithfear le gach saoránach ar an oileán seo go cothrom de réir an dlí. Ba mhaith linn go mbeidh na cearta céanna ag gach duine. We want every citizen on the island treated equally under the law. We want everyone to have the same rights. Sinn Féin is here to continue the momentum to a truly civic, representative, impartial and fully accountable service for the whole community. We will not stop until it is achieved. If we don’t, no one else will. That is why we are on the Policing Board, on the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships and the Justice Committee. We have the stamina and the strategy to do it. But let me be clear once more: Our support for policing North and South, is critical support. That means when we see bad policing, we will be the first to demand it is sorted! A chairde, I commend Motion 157 to this Ard Fheis in the knowledge that Policing and Justice can always and should always be changing and improving and therefore will always be one of the issues to the forefront of our political agenda throughout the whole of Ireland.

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