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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice issues Gerry Kelly MLA has hit out at comments made today in the British House of Commons by Paul Murphy as he attempted to defend the British government over their ongoing failure to either publish or act upon the Cory Report.

Mr. Kelly said:

"It is now very clear that this British government are continuing the decades long policy of covering up the British state policy of institutionalised collusion. There can be no other explanation for their failure to either publish or act upon the findings of Judge Cory.

"The British government entered into very public commitments after the Weston Park talks to act upon Judge Cory's findings. They have had possession of his report from last October and have failed to honour their pledges.

"Despite the efforts of Paul Murphy in the British House of Commons today the position adopted by his government is indefensible. Sinn Féin made this clear to him yesterday and we will continue to support the families in their demand for the truth." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on European Affairs Bairbre de Brún has today called for any future EU peace and reconciliation monies to include measures for tackling sectarianism in the workplace.

As the debate on whether the EU will deliver a Peace III funding programme continues, Ms de Brún has said that any new Peace III programme can help secure the successful elimination of inequality, the promotion of diversity and the recognition of the inter-dependence of all individuals and communities across Ireland.

Ms de Brún said:

"There is a continued need to support peace building across the island of Ireland. Nation-building and reconciliation will require us to address and tackle issues of discrimination and sectarianism which have blighted workplace relationships to this day. Reconciliation can only be built on equality and the recognition that there is no place for discrimination in our society.

"In the course of Peace I and II much good work was done by the voluntary and community sector in tackling these issues. However there is also a responsibility on the business community to fully engage in the process of conflict resolution. Addressing the inequality, discrimination and sectarianism on their own doorstep can best do this. In addition to tackling sectarianism at the macro level, there is a need to examine how vulnerable groups and individuals within individual workplaces can be made to feel more secure.

"In designing any new Peace III package, we must learn from this gap in some of the good anti-sectarian work that has been carried out to date and ensure that adequate provision be made in the future. This can include involving workforces in the design of initiatives to increase the safety, security and peace of mind of groups underrepresented in that workplace. Workplace safety and security remains one of the key equality issues for us all today and adequate funding must be provided for that work."ENDS

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Commenting on the public launch of the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy in rural areas by British Direct rule Minister John Spellar, Sinn Féin spokesperson on poverty issues Kathy Stanton said:

"Neighbourhood Renewal has been presented as a key answer to tackling the unacceptable high levels of poverty and disadvantage which affects communities across the North. However this same strategy, which was introduced by the Labour government in Britain, has not made any significant impact on alleviating the many varied social and economic conditions facing disadvantaged communities.

"While Neighbourhood Renewal‚s objective to produce a more integrated approach to these issues has merit there are however deep concerns around the fact that additional resources have so far not been earmarked for its implementation.

"What is required is a multi-faceted approach and a serious commitment from British Direct rule ministers and Departments to tackling identified need in deprived communities of which Neighbourhood Renewal is but one aspect.

"It is also of extreme concern that a major flaw in the strategy is its complete failure to acknowledge the detrimental impact of discriminatory policies and practices employed by successive administrations. This remains a core issue which must be addressed by Ministers, departments and those with statutory responsibility for tackling poverty and disadvantage in our society. If not, then no amount of strategies will succeed in turning back the increasing despair which poverty imposes on too many people." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will deliver a major speech on the state on the peace process tomorrow afternoon at 2pm in St. Malachy's Grammar School, Antrim Road, Belfast.

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Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator and MP for Mid-Ulster, Martin McGuinness will travel to Davos, Switzerland next week to attend the World Economic Forum to address a dedicated session on the Irish Peace Process.

Speaking in advance of the visit, Mr McGuinness said,

"The World Economic Forum is a gathering of world leaders and key international opinion makers. It is a measure of international interest in the Irish peace process that there is a dedicated session on our on-going efforts to finally resolve the causes of conflict in Ireland. This is particularly important at this time, as it will give key world leaders the opportunity to hear at first hand the history of our peace process but also the difficulties that we face at this time. It will, I have no doubt, add to the pressure on the two governments and in particular the British government to move urgently to resolve the political crisis.

"I will re-iterate my firm view that that the two governments must not be paralysed by negative Unionism and that they must fulfil their commitments under the terms of the Agreement. An anti-Agreement minority cannot be allowed to over-ride the wishes of the vast majority of the people of Ireland.

"Democratic and human rights are not conditional. The British government should immediately lift their unilateral suspension of the political institutions and proceed with the equality, human rights and demilitarisation agendas without further delay." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Newry/Armagh MLA Davy Hyland has urged that the proposed centre of excellence for the treatment of children with Autism be implemented as soon as possible.

Mr Hyland said:

"Following the initiative taken by the then Education Ministers, Martin McGuinness and Dr. Michael Woods it was expected that a new centre of excellence for the treatment of children with Autism would open in the Autumn 2003. This was to be based in the former St. Joseph's Adolescent Training Centre in Middletown, Co. Armagh. This cross border facility was intended to be made available to children throughout the island of Ireland.

"In 2002 the Assembly passed a motion calling on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to introduce a training programme for Health Visitors, School Nurses, Key Stage 1 and Nursery School Teachers to facilitate the early detection of autism and to make adequate provision in collaboration with the Department of Education to meet the needs of autistic children.

"Since then both Education departments North and South have been asked to implement suitable structures and facilities to improve a cross border exchange between pupils and teachers. As a result it is intended that an All Ireland Exchange Trust will begin in March 2004 to deal with special needs children with Autism. Complimentary Parent/Teacher CD ROMs /Videos and literature with information on Autism and Dyslexia will also be launched in the near future. However at present there appears to be a reluctance on behalf of the northern Education department to implement this All Ireland initiative.

"Having discussed this with fellow MLAs at a meeting in Stormont on Tuesday I will be contacting Direct Rule Minister, Jane Kennedy to urge that she fully implements this much needed facility." ENDS

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Speaking after a meeting this morning with the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy were he raised the ongoing failure to publish the Cory report, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that he was 'entirely dissatisfied with the excuses given, and the continuing failure of the British Government to honour its obligations and commitments'.

Mr. Adams said:

"Sinn Féin has consistently supported the families demand for full public judicial inquiries into these cases and others. I welcome Judge Cory's recommendation to the British government in respect of these cases.

"I raised this issue with the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy this morning. I am entirely dissatisfied with the excuses he gave and the British government failing to honour its obligations and commitments.

"The onus is now on the British government to publish Cory and to honour the commitments it made in August 2001 following the Weston Park talks. On that occasion Mr Blair said that 'in the event that a public enquiry is recommended in any case, the relevant government will implement that recommendation'. There can be no excuse to justify any further delay.

"Cory should be immediately published and the British government must establish full public judicial inquiries. "Of course, the British government reluctance to fulfil commitments made is rooted in the fact that collusion was and is part of administrative practice here and British agencies did collude with, arm, train and provide information for unionist paramilitaries."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, former chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has welcomed the increases announced in today's Budget but added that the core issue of overall expenditure has not been addressed.

Cllr Molloy said:

"Any increases in expenditure must be welcomed particularly within the agreed priorities of Health, Education and infrastructure. However these increases cannot hide the fact that the funding deficit has not been addressed. The architect of the Barnett formula has recently highlighted the weakness and unfairness of the way in which our overall Budget is worked out. These increases do not take account of the levels of need that exist here, they do nothing to address the legacy of decades of under investment.

"Sinn Féin will be raising the issues of the accumulated funding deficit, the legacy of underfunding, the unfairness of Barnett formula and the need to realise a genuine Peace Dividend in the review of the Good Friday Agreement starting at the end of January.

"The failure to deliver a genuine Peace Dividend and the refusal to address the core issue of funding seriously undermine the ability of any future Executive to deliver real change.

"We need to see significant investment right across our public services and infrastructure. Forcing local people to pay for decades of underinvestment is not the solution.

"I would also have deep reservation about the way in which NIO Ministers are basing increased funding on large rates increases. This will create immediate and long-term difficulties for people, particularly those on low incomes. It is a disgrace that a supposedly socialist government should rely on this form of regressive taxation to raise revenue"ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has written to the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern urging him to seek and secure official status for the Irish language during the Irish Presidency of the European Union.

Mr. Adams said:

"Over 30 years ago the Irish government of the day refused to take up the offer of making Irish an official language of the EEC. That was a disgraceful decision which stands as a mark of shame against that government.

"This year the accession of the new states in May will see the current 11 official languages increase to 20. Maltese, which enjoys 380,000 speakers, is already recognised as an official language of the EU. There are at least that many Irish speakers on this island and many more who have a knowledge of the language.

"So far the Irish government, which will hold the Presidency of the EU during this transitional period, has no plans to seek official status for Irish, even though Irish taxpayers will provide money to a translation fund.

"I have written to the Taoiseach urging him to propose a motion to the Council of Ministers to include Gaeilge as an official language of the European Union.

"I believe this should be done as a matter of principle and because it is also critical to efforts across the island to promote the use and status of Gaeilge." ENDS

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Ógra Shinn Féin is to launch a nationwide campaign calling for voting rights to be extended to citizens in the Six Counties for the Irish presidential election. The campaign will be formally launched by Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly, at Ógra Shinn Féin's National Congress in Dublin on 17th January.

National Organiser of Ógra Shinn Féin, Micky Bravender said:

"At our National Congress this weekend Ógra Shinn Féin will launch a nationwide campaign calling for voting rights to be extended to citizens in the Six Counties for the Irish Presidential election.

"This campaign will run the length and breadth of Ireland, from Kerry to Derry and will continue until we secure the first All-Ireland elections since 1918.

"We plan to organise rallies in support of this campaign, and more importantly, we will lobby every Council, Corporation and elected chamber in Ireland to get their backing for this campaign.

"While we do not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead, we are confident that by the end of 2004 we will have made history in achieving the first all Ireland elections in 86 years, and will have moved the prospect of Irish unity decisively forward"ENDS

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Commenting on media reports that Judge Cory has written to the families of the four cases into which he was investigating confirming to them that he has recommended inquires in all of the cases, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice issues Gerry Kelly MLA said:

"I would welcome the fact that Judge Cory has recommended to the British government that inquires in these cases take place.

"The British government must now as a matter of urgency publish the Cory Report and act upon the public commitments which they made to abide by its findings.

"Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Alex Maskey will meet tomorrow morning with the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy and will be raising this matter then." ENDS

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as a "debacle" the threatened stand-off between hospital consultants and the Department of Health and Children over failure to reach agreement on a new insurance scheme for consultants. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The issue of insurance cover for consultants should have been resolved long ago as part of the promised revision of the consultants' contract. Instead negotiations have continued since 2001 with no end in sight. The Government's own target date for revision of the contract, as set out in the Health Strategy, was the end of 2002.

"The existing contract gives hospital consultants a privileged position whereby most are paid handsomely for practice in the public system without proper accountability while also carrying out lucrative private practice. It seems that they are now seeking renewed insurance cover from the State to cover liability from private practice in the past. This once again underlines the need to totally revise the consultants' contract and to create a new grade of hospital consultant who would work exclusively in the public system, as part of an overall effort to dismantle the grossly unequal two-tier public-private system."ENDS

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Sinn Féin's spokesperson on European Affairs Bairbre de Brún MLA today led a party delegation to meet Ulster Farmers Union president John Gilliland. The delegation included party spokesperson on agriculture Cllr Gerry McHugh. The meeting took place at the UFU headquarters in Belfast. The focus of the meeting was the issue of the British governments implementation of the reformed EU Common Agricultural Policy. DARD are currently in consultation on the mechanisms for implementation with a deadline of Friday January 16th.

Speaking after the meeting Ms de Brún said:

"The issue of CAP reform is of vital importance for farmers, rural communities and society as a whole. The outcome of the consultation will have a major impact on the future of our farming industry and the communities who rely on farming for their livelihood. It will in effect determine whether many farms continue to exist. As Ireland has a large number of small and family based farms this question is particularly important. It is undoubtedly one of the most important issues facing Irish society today.

"At the centre of the consultation is the issue of decoupling subsidies from production levels. Sinn Féin held a series of meetings with farmers to get a view of the model of decoupling which in their view would best suit the industry here. Todays meetings is part of that listening exercise for our party.

"It is our view that full decoupling is the best option for Irish agriculture and in the best interest of the industry.

"The meeting dealt with other aspects of the CAP reform process which have gotten little attention such as cross compliance, the use of modulation monies for rural development and the regulations covering animal welfare and food quality.

In conclusion Ms de Brún said

"It is important that we have a quick decision so farmers can plan for their future and put an end to the current uncertainty. It is also important that Irish farming has a strong and response lobby arguing for its interests within the European Union. Sinn Féin is committed to listening to the farming community and placing their concerns at the heart of our efforts to ensure a fair and equitable implementation of the CAP reform. Todays meeting has been both informative and constructive and will play a role in ensuring that our party fully understands the right way forward for Irish farmers."

The Sinn Féin delegation also meet with representatives of NIAPA including Lawrence Smyth.

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Sinn Féin Assembly team leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy has dismissed suggestion from UUP MLA David McNarry for the establishment of shadow committees and said that this proposal would provide no real accountability and indeed would provide cover for NIO ministers.

Mr Murphy said:

"What we need is suspension lifted We need to get the real Assembly committee structures in place that can hold ministers fully to account.

"This proposal actually lets ministers off the hook. A shadow committee structure would not have the statutory powers to hold people to account. There is no basis for it in legislation or in the Good Friday Agreement."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has commended Amnesty International for their "Human Rights Begins at Home" campaign launched earlier today, and welcomed its practical recommendations to use Ireland's EU Presidency in the promotion of human rights. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Human rights is not just an empty slogan. Yet for all the EU's commitment to human rights on paper, 13 of 15 current member states including this state are still human rights offenders, as are a similar proportion of accession states, according to Amnesty International. This is not acceptable. There must be a concerted effort to change this situation, to ensure that full human rights are achieved both in Ireland and in the EU as a whole. Amnesty has tabled a programme for change, and they are to be commended for this. Sinn Féin agrees that Ireland's EU Presidency should be used to spearhead such an effort. That is why Sinn Féin has called for the Irish Presidency to initiate a mechanism for human rights proofing of all EU law and policy, both internal and external.

"In addition, I particularly welcome Amnesty Director Seán Love's suggestion this morning that the Patten Policing Reforms should be adopted not only here in Ireland, but throughout the EU. Amnesty's recognition of Patten as a generally applicable positive model adds weight to Sinn Féin's proposals for police reform in this state, which include the establishment of a fully independent Garda Ombudsman, fully independent civilian Policing Board, and district-level Community Policing Partnerships on the Patten model. We believe that these reforms are necessary to achieve effective and accountable policing in this state, and we urge the Minister to adopt these proposals when he revises the heads of his Garda Síochána Bill. The fact that public consensus is growing on this issue is very encouraging." ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Browne has spoken of his outrage after the newly refurbished Republican plot in Milltown was desecrated last night.

Cllr. Browne said:

"Last night the newly refurbished Republican Plot in Milltown was desecrated in an outrageous act of wanton vandalism. Up to sixteen individual graves have been destroyed.

"I have spoken to a number of families who have loved ones buried in the plot and they are extremely distressed by what has happened overnight. This is not simply a republican memorial, it is the actual graves of many IRA Volunteers and Sinn Féin activists killed over the past thirty years.

"The monument was recently refurbished through the voluntary work of Belfast Republicans. Republicans throughout the city will be angered at this turn of events and I am sure they will rally to the aid of the National Graves Association as they seek to rebuild the monument.

"Those responsible for this attack are beyond contempt and they need to reflect long and hard upon their actions."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that Enda Kenny‚s comments this afternoon ruling out coalition with Sinn Féin shows that the EU and Local election campaigns have well and truly begun and points to the failure of Fine Gael to provide any real alternative to the conservative policies of the Fianna Fáil/PD government.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Fine Gael leader ruling out coalition with Sinn Féin has caused amusement to republicans throughout the country.

"It merely points to the failure of Fine Gael, as the so-called main opposition party, to provide any real alternative to the conservative policies of the Fianna Fáil/PD government.

"As the most rapidly growing party in Ireland the last thing Sinn Féin is considering is jumping aboard the floundering ship of Fine Gael. Enda Kenny‚s remarks show that the EU and Local election campaigns have well and truly begun. And Sinn Féin goes into them confident of major gains."ENDS

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For immediate release: 10th January 2004

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness speaking in Dublin after the party's first Ard Chomhairle meeting of the new year said "it is vital that the Agreement is supported and not undermined, in the course of the upcoming review." He said "Sinn Fein is prepared to listen to what the DUP have to say but if it emerges that the DUP`s position is still to wreck the Good Friday Agreement then there will be an absolutely massive responsibility on the British and Irish Governments and the pro-Agreement parties to move ahead and implement the Agreement.

Mr. McGuinness said:

"There is obviously going to be an exploration of the DUP`s position in the coming weeks and we will listen very carefully to what Ian Paisley is saying. We have made it absolutely clear that we want to talk to the DUP just as we have spoken to all unionist representatives in the past. But if it emerges that the DUP`s position is still to wreck the Good Friday Agreement and that they remain dedicated to the destruction of the institutions, action will have to be taken.

"There will be an absolutely massive responsibility on the British and Irish Governments and the pro-Agreement parties to move ahead of those who are bent on the destruction of all of the work that we have been engaged in over the course of the last ten years.

"We have to remember that there are only 34 members of the Assembly opposed to the Agreement and that the 74 in favour of it represent a very strong and powerful hand. We cannot and will not, under any circumstances, allow the Reverend Ian Paisley and those that he leads to overturn an Agreement that has been endorsed overwhelmingly by all of the citizens of this island?

"Sinn Féin wants to see the restoration of the Assembly and Executive and the all-Ireland institutions. We also want to see human rights and equality commissions supported, demilitarization and a representative, accountable policing service under the control of a local administration in the north"ENDS

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Table of contents

Introduction 1

Human Rights Ethos 4

Service and Equal Partnership Ethos 5

A Garda Ombudsman 7

A Policing Board 10

Community Policing Partnerships 12

Other Recommendations for Reform 14

Introduction

Every society needs a police service and every legitimate police service needs the support of the communities it serves. For that reason it is imperative that there is total transparency and trust between the police service and the communities.

The Garda Síochána has remained largely unreformed since its establishment 80 years ago. The Minister for Justice has rightly pointed out that his recently introduced proposals on Garda reform "represent the first major piece of legislative reform of the Garda Síochána since the foundation of the State." With the Government's acknowledgment that reform is necessary, we now have an opportunity to shape the policing of the future for the people of Ireland. It is critical that we get it right.

Sinn Féin wants to see an all-island police service established. In the interim, we want policing services North and South that can attract widespread support from, and that are seen as an integral part of, the host community as a whole. We want effective policing with local democratic accountability, shaped as a community service and imbued with that ethos.

In recent times public confidence in the Garda Síochána has eroded. Currently there are two ongoing tribunals investigating serious complaints about Garda misconduct in Co. Donegal and the shooting of John Carthy. The Gardaí also have major questions to answer regarding their conduct of the investigation of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and other incidents of collusion in this state, including the murder of Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has referred to "a culture of denial that has allowed impunity to spread" -- and indeed there is evidence and allegations of Garda and Special Branch misconduct both individual and systemic dating back to the 1970s; off-duty criminal involvement in a range of serious offences including sexual assault; findings of fraud in relation to Garda contracts; and findings that Gardaí have adduced false evidence in Court. Public perception of impunity for misconduct has been confirmed by the repeated failures of the Garda Complaints Board.

Working class communities know only too well that the Gardaí are not succeeding in making their communities safe. Many people in these communities are angry at the failure to respond effectively to growing localised crises, and misallocation of Garda resources.

The Good Friday Agreement promised for the Six Counties a new police service that would be "impartial, representative, free from partisan political control, efficient, infused with a human rights culture, decentralised, and democratically accountable at all levels." The resulting Patten Commission recommendations for the future of policing involve the creation of community-based civic policing with human rights at its core, held accountable through democratic institutions and representative of the community it serves. We believe that citizens of this state deserve nothing less. Just as we believe in the Good Friday Agreement's commitment to jurisdictional equivalence in equality and human rights protections, so too must police reform "harmonise upwards" using the Patten Recommendations as a template for reaching a minimum standard.

The Minister for Justice has dismissed Patten as irrelevant as a model because it was developed to deal with a specific conflict situation. But that is not persuasive. The Patten Recommendations are also now recognised internationally as representing best practice. As such Sinn Féin accepts that Patten represents an authoritative best practice template for policing in this jurisdiction.

A comprehensive Garda Reform package must support the Gardaí in their evolution towards a best practice service, one which can set the standard globally for efficient, effective and accountable policing with human rights at its core -- a policing service enjoying an unprecedented level of community confidence, support, and cooperation. That is our vision. That is the policing service Sinn Féin wants to help realise for the people of this state.

In keeping with this, Sinn Féin recommends the following key interlocking measures for a reform package:

  • The setting up of an independent Garda Ombudsman
  • The setting up of a civilian Policing Board
  • The setting up of Community Policing Partction of human rights should also be reflected in the proposed legislation as a core value, and given at least equal weight to others such as "efficiency and economy".

    The Minister's draft legislation should be revised to reflect this human rights ethos, particularly in the Heads on objectives for the regulations and functions of the Garda Síochána (3(3) and 6(1)), the functions of the Commissioner (10(3)), and the Garda Attestation (15), all of which should make specific reference to the duty to protect and promote human rights.

    Of course, getting the Garda complaints and accountability mechanisms exactly right is fundamental to ensuring that the culture of impunity becomes a thing of the past, replaced by a culture of full human rights compliance. The Sinn Féin proposals for an independent Garda Ombudsman (below) address this need.

    Service and Equal Partnership Ethos

    The Patten Commission rightly emphasised that the community is "the ultimate custodian" of policing services. In keeping with this, Patten recommended a governing concept of "policing WITH the community" that should be the core function of the policing service -- at the level of every police station and every serving member.

    Sinn Féin is recommending an equal partnership approach between police and community. This means that the police participate in the community and respond to the needs of that community, and the community participates in policing and supports the police. Together they can solve problems more effectively.

    It has been noted that since the 1970s the Garda Síochána has been moving steadily further away from the concept expressed in its title -- "Guardians of the Peace" -- and its emphasis on community service and towards an overemphasis on security. As a result, in many areas the community has grown correspondingly estranged from the Gardaí. Unfortunately, this outdated security-oriented approach is also reflected in the Minister's proposals. A community service and equal partnership re-orientation is needed if trust in the Gardaí is to be restored and enhanced. Such an approach also has the potential to contribute substantially to increased community cooperation, and consequently to Garda effectiveness.

    The Garda reform legislation should aid the evolution of 21st century policing as a service rather than a "force" - one which is fully accountable and guided by a service and community partnership ethos.

    The Minister's draft legislation should be revised to reflect this service and partnership ethos, particularly in the proposals on functions and distribution of Gardaí (Heads 6 and 7), functions of Commissioner (10), appointments of Commissioner, Deputy and Assistant Commissioners and Superintendents (9,13 and 14), setting of priorities by the Minister (18), Strategic Policing Plan (19), Annual Policing Plan (20), Provision of Information (28) and obtaining the views of the public (24), under Part 2 on Performance and Accountability of the Garda Síochána.

    The Minister's proposals in large part seek to clarify the relationship between the Minister and the Garda Commissioner, the Oireachtas and the Garda Commissioner, and the local authorities and local Gardaí. While this is welcome and necessary, the missing link is the need to elaborate the relationship and accountability between the Commissioner and the people, and local Garda command and the people they serve. Sinn Féin proposals to establish an independent civilian Policing Board and Community Policing Partnerships (below) seek to address this deficit.

    A Garda Ombudsman

    Sinn Féin recommends the establishment on a statutory basis of a fully independent Garda Ombudsman to investigate police misconduct. We welcome the growing consensus that only an Ombudsman can provide an effective complaints mechanism, and that nothing less than an Ombudsman can command full public confidence.

    In line with the recommendations of the Irish Human Rights Commission, Sinn Féin proposes that a Garda Ombudsman must be:

    • An open, merit-based appointment, selected on the basis of published criteria
    • Established separately from any body charged with a Garda management function, or with a mandate to review Garda efficiency and effectiveness
    • Adequately resourced and staffed full-time
    • Granted the necessary legal powers and resources to conduct independent investigations
    • Allowed a scope of investigations that includes the Special Detective Unit, unless and until it is disbanded
    • Authorised to question witnesses, compel document disclosure, and access locations as necessary
    • Granted the same legal powers as Gardaí to arrest and hold criminal suspects related to its own investigations
    • Empowered to determine breaches of the Garda Disciplinary Code (misconduct)
    • Empowered to refer evidence of criminality to the Department of Public Prosecutions
    • Empowered to resolve appropriate complaints informally, with the complainants' consent
    • Empowered to resolve complaints formally by assigning penalties and remedies, including a recommendation for disciplinary action, dismissal, changes in policy or procedure, or compensation to the complainant
    • Empowered to investigate systemic problems, including policies and practices, and make general recommendations to eliminate causes of classes of complaints; where determined necessary by the Ombudsman, this should include matters of national security
    • Empowered to conduct independent investigations on matters of public interest on his or her own volition, or on the request of the Minister, without the need for a complainant -- and that this would be compulsory in the case of certain violations involving loss of life, excessive force, ill-treatment in custody, discrimination, and political interference
    • Granted retrospective investigative powers
    • Required to produce an Annual Report for publication, including statistics, identified trends or patterns, analyses and recommendations
    • Provided with a mechanism for effective interaction, sharing of information, and collaborative investigation that enables the Garda Ombudsman and the Police Ombudsman for the Six Counties to work together

    Any information that becomes available to the Department of Public Prosecutions which indicates Garda misconduct should be automatically referred to the Garda Ombudsman.

    Gardaí under investigation should of course be afforded the full protection of due process rights. Both parties should be afforded equal treatment before the law, including full disclosure and access to legal aid in cases where there is need and an opinion of sufficient merit.

    The Irish Human Rights Commission has argued that this reform is not only necessary to respond adequately to the criticism of the existing complaints system and recommendations raised repeatedly by the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture over ten years, but is also required to conform with both European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence on standards of independence and impartiality in police conduct investigation and the Good Friday Agreement provisions on equivalent human rights protections between jurisdictions.

    Government commitments to establish an independent complaints procedure date back to 1973. This issue must be resolved and there can be no further delay.

    While we welcome the Government's recognition that the Garda Complaints Board has been totally inadequate and the decision to replace it, the Minister's proposals for a dual-purpose Inspectorate fall far short of the requirements. Sinn Féin urges the Minister to reconsider and revise his proposals in light of the emerging consensus about the need for a separate, fully independent Garda Ombudsman's Office with a sole investigative function.

    A Policing Board

    Sinn Féin recommends the establishment on a statutory basis of a fully independent civilian Policing Board, created as a separate entity from both the Garda Síochána and the Garda Ombudsman's Office. This purpose of this Board would be to hold the Gardaí fully to account.

    The Policing Board would act as the civilian body to which the Garda Commissioner is accountable. As such it would fulfil the other aspect of the remit of the Minister's proposed "Inspectorate" -- providing management oversight on issues of recruitment, qualifications, training standards, equipment, accommodation, organisation, methods, and best practice.

    Sinn Féin proposes that the Policing Board must be:

    • Independent of Garda Management
    • Representative: composed of 1/3 elected representatives (of a cross-party nature), 1/3 representatives of statutory bodies, and 1/3 representatives from the community/voluntary sector, including at least 50% women and taking the need for other forms of social and economic representativeness into account
    • Selected by a transparent, merit-based appointment process independent of the Gardaí, with the members and Chair to be selected and appointed on the same basis as the Ombudsman (elected representatives disqualified from holding the Chair)
    • Empowered to appoint senior Gardaí on the basis of a transparent process, to review their performance, and to hold them accountable
    • Required to meet monthly and in public with the Garda Commissioner and to receive his reports on operational management
    • Empowered to request and receive all kinds of information from the Garda Commissioner (if it is in the public interest that such information be kept confidential, it may hold in-camera sessions to deal with specific matters for this purpose)
    • Empowered to request a report from the Garda Commissioner on any matter pertaining to policing
    • Empowered to establish short-, medium- and long-term strategic priorities and objectives together with the Commissioner, as part of a process of agreeing a Strategic Policing Plan and Annual Policing Plan
    • Empowered to monitor performance as well as budget management against the agreed Strategic Plan, Annual Policing Plan, or any other indicators
    • Empowered to make recommendations on resource allocation or policy change to the Minister, who must take them into account
    • Empowered to refer matters as appropriate to the Garda Ombudsman or Comptroller and Auditor General
    • Empowered to establish an independent inquiry into any matter as it sees fit (provisions for such inquiries should be so as to emphasise the independence of the Board)
    • Required to publish an Annual Report

    We welcome the emerging consensus on the need for independent civilian oversight in order to establish police accountability.

    However, the Minister's proposals will not deliver independent civilian oversight, and should be revised to include provisions for an independent civilian Policing Board.

    Community Policing Partnerships

    Sinn Féin recommends the establishment on a statutory basis of Community Policing Partnerships at District level throughout the State to increase Garda transparency, to promote community trust and cooperation, and to hold the Gardaí fully to account.

    The relationship of accountability between District Superintendent and such Community Policing Partnerships would be analogous with the relationship between the Commissioner and Policing Board.

    In this way, the Community Policing Partnership would have a liaison role between the District Commander and the local community, and thereby become a mechanism for both community accountability and cooperation.

    Sinn Féin proposes that each local authority should establish Community Policing Partnerships, one per policing district, as committees of the council, on the following basis:

    • CPP membership must be elected by the local authority.
    • The nomination process should be transparent and based on published criteria.
    • As with the Policing Board, the final composition should be 1/3 elected representatives (of a cross-party nature), 1/3 representatives from local statutory agencies, and 1/3 from the local community and voluntary sector, with at least 50% women, and with a view to increasing diversity and representation to reflect as fully as possible the actual composition of the communities in the district.
    • There should be monthly public meetings between the CPP and District Superintendent, at which he or she should present reports and answer questions.
    • The CPP members in turn should have the opportunity and responsibility to reflect community concerns and priorities, and to make recommendations.
    • There should also be a mechanism for members of the public to address questions to the Superintendent at the public meetings, through the CPP Chair.
    • The Superintendent should be required to take CPP views into account when formulating or implementing policing plans and strategies for the district

    The CPPs should be based on the following Patten principles:

    • Equal partnership approach between police and community
    • Powers should not be unnecessarily limited
    • Appointments to the CPP must be open to all without discrimination
    • The CPP should be obliged by law to meet in public
    • The CPP should provide a forum for public consultation at district level on Annual Policing Plans
    • To improve transparency and public confidence, the Gardaí should make all requested information available for public scrutiny unless it is clearly in the public interest (not just police interest) to withhold such information
    • There should also be a requirement on Garda command to give after-the-fact explanations for their actions

    Each CPP should publish an Annual Report including recommendations, which the Garda Commissioner should be required to take into account in the operational management of the service. The Minister should also be required to take notice of CPP recommendations in the formulation of policy over which he or she has responsibility.

    While the Local Policing Fora that have been piloted in some areas of Dublin are a welcome step, they do not provide the right model for community accountability as they are not based on equal partnership. Existing Policing Fora should be converted into Community Policing Partnerships.

    The Minister's proposals on enhanced cooperation between local authorities and the Gardaí also represent an improvement on the present situation, but do not meet the same standards of transparency and community accountability as the proposed Community Policing Partnerships. Sinn Féin therefore urges the Minister to reconsider and revise his proposals for Local Policing Committees (at Head 23).

    Other Recommendations for Reform

    Sinn Féin recommends that the Minister consider and adopt the following additional measures which are necessary to comprehensive Garda reform, the vindication of human rights and justice, and the re-establishment of public confidence in the Gardaí.

    Additional Human Rights Protections

    • Mandatory videotaping at all Garda stations of suspect and witness interviews should be rolled out immediately (this issue has been outstanding since at least 1979).
    • The right of access to a lawyer at Garda stations must be brought into line with international best practice (as the Government has been "considering" since 1993).
    • The Garda Ombudsman must initiate an investigation into the longstanding allegations that confidential client-solicitor meetings at Garda stations were routinely taped.
    • The proposed compulsory human rights training for Gardaí must also include anti-discrimination training, and training on international standards.

    Organisational Review and Operational Innovation

    • Garda reform legislation should be accompanied by a comprehensive review of resource deployment, equipment, training and procedure (including the Disciplinary Code) to ensure effective best practice policing and to complete a process of modernisation; such a review should have a public consultation component to increase transparency and public confidence.
    • There must be a separate review of recruitment and promotion practices with a view to increasing representativeness of the service and promoting gender equality.
    • The Policing Board, Commissioner, and Minister should consider options for the civilianisation of appropriate Garda administrative posts.
    • Fully trained Gardaí should be relieved of some static duties and a dedicated traffic corps under Garda supervision should also be introduced. However the Government has neither presented nor proven its case for a Garda Reserve Force. Moreover, a reserve force should never be considered a substitute for meaningful local involvement in decision-making and accountability. The enabling provisions (Heads 32-33) should therefore be struck from the Government's proposals. The more appropriate and effective mechanism for community cooperation is the Policing Partnerships proposed by Sinn Féin.
    • On general principle, policing services should not be privatised or "outsourced" to private companies. It must be made explicit in law that neither the Commissioner nor the Minister has the authority to privatise policing services.
    • The Minister should publicly reconfirm that Gardaí will not, in the normal practice, not be equipped with firearms, as is the current case.
    • The Minister must publish the report of the Garda Review Group on alternatives to firearms that includes recommendations on the use of "less-than-lethal" weapons by the Gardaí.
    • Crime and complaint pattern analysis should be introduced to provide an information-led, problem-solving approach to policing that addresses causes as well as consequences.
    • Crime statistics should be collected, analysed and made publicly available at station and district level, not just at regional or divisional level.
    • Gardaí should not be despatched on international missions except as part of an International United Nations Force (a force established and led by the United Nations). Gardaí should not be sent on EU-led Police Missions. An Garda Síochána should also be explicitly barred from cooperating with other state police forces that commit systematic human rights abuses. This must be reflected in revisions to the Minister's draft provisions (Head 8).

    Righting Past Wrongs and Clearing the Slate

    • The Minister must publish the reports of prior Garda Complaints Board and other internal inquiries.
    • The Special Detective Unit (Special Branch) should be disbanded and its officers redeployed only following completion of intensive human rights upskilling. For decades this "force within a force" has dominated both the ethos and the management structure of the Gardaí. Using the draconian Offences Against the State Acts, it has violated civil rights and diverted much policing time and resources away from real service to the community. It should be disbanded as part of an overall reorganisation of Garda structures, taking into account, in particular, the need to tackle organised drug crime.
    • The performance of the Emergency Response Unit to date should be reviewed by the Garda Ombudsman, and any conclusions and recommendations made public.
    • Immigration processing should be decoupled from the Gardaí, as immigration and seeking asylum from persecution are not crimes. The Garda National Immigration Bureau should only deal with associated security clearance procedures and investigations of suspected violations of the law.
    • A clear human rights-proofing mechanism must be established under the Human Rights Commission, to scrutinise all existing and future legislation conferring powers on Gardaí and bring forward any recommendations for change.

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The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle will hold its first meeting of the new year in Dublin tomorrow, Saturday 10th January. The main items on the agenda are the upcoming Review and the Local and European elections.

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness will be available to talk to the media at 12.15pm at the party's Head Office, 44 Parnell Square.

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