29 January 2006

Deal for IRA 'policing' under attack


Henry McDonald
Sunday January 29, 2006
The Observer

The British government is preparing to fund 'mini IRA dictatorships' in Catholic areas of Northern Ireland as part of a move to restore devolution, the SDLP warned last night.

Alban Maginness, its justice spokesman, claimed a deal had been done between Sinn Fein and Downing Street to publicly finance 'community restorative justice' schemes in republican strongholds. The SDLP has called these 'alternative paramilitary policing'.

Maginness made an eleventh-hour appeal to the Irish government to persuade Tony Blair to reverse the decision. 'This deal means the British government are prepared to legitimise paramilitary policing in Catholic areas where the IRA holds sway.

'It is absolutely appalling that the British would enter into such a deal with the IRA. The consequences for ordinary people will be very bad. They will be subjected to an alternative, IRA-backed policing force where human rights safeguards would not be adhered to. What you have are the establishment of mini-IRA dictatorships in Catholic areas, and the British government is about to give approval for this.'

Maginness called on the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and his government to oppose this 'secret deal'. 'The Irish government is aware of our concerns on this issue, as we have made a very strong case. We hope that Dublin will intervene to prevent this happening. I think there is still time for this unsavoury deal between the British and the IRA to be stopped in its tracks. People should be entitled to proper policing, not paramilitary policing,' he added. The normal protection of human rights and legal representation must prevail.

Concerns about the schemes have been highlighted in cases from Belfast to Derry, where families who have fallen foul of the local IRA complained of bias and arbitrary decisions, including expulsions from their homes.

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