17 January 2006

Kelly sets out demands for island wide policing reforms prior to UCD debate

Sinn Féin

Published: 17 January, 2006

Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly will take part in a debate on Policing in UCD this evening. Others taking part in the discussion include former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald, Alliance party MLA Eileen Bell, Fianna Fail adviser Martin Manseragh and SDLP leader Mark Durkan.

Speaking before the debate Mr Kelly said that Sinn Féin were determined to deliver effective and accountable policing throughout the island.

Mr Kelly said:

"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 community as a whole.

“We want effective policing with local democratic accountability, shaped as a community service and imbued with that human rights ethos. We have an opportunity now to shape the policing of the future for the people of Ireland. It is critical that we get it right.

“Any modern society needs and wants an effective and responsive police service. Ireland is no different in that regard. Where we differ substantially is in the history and experience of policing as an instrument of repression particularly in the six counties.

“Rightly because of the legacy of the RUC as a unionist paramilitary militia and the failure to date of the British government to implement Patten in full there has been much focus on getting policing right in the north.

“Seven years ago, the negotiating process culminated in the Good Friday Agreement. We won the argument that the status quo had failed, including policing and justice. The Agreement declared we needed a new beginning to policing and defined the criteria for a civic policing service. That is the position Sinn Féin supports. Achieving this is a priority issue and task for Sinn Fein.

“Since 1998, we have seen the British government enact flawed legislation on policing and on justice. On both occasions, we have fought and eventually won amending legislation to repair some of the damage and restore the agenda for change.

“The record of the last seven years shows the huge advances which have been made. We know that good laws will not in themselves end bad policing. But bad laws would make good policing all but impossible.

That is why the onus is on the British government to bring forward its proposals and to enact legislation to give full expression to the transfer of powers away from London and out of the hands of British securocrats.

“However our vision is much wider than that. At the weekend we held a conference in Belfast as part of the process of setting out an all-Ireland vision of policing and justice on the island.

“People whether they be in Kerry or Derry deserve accountable, civic policing in which they can place their trust. Reform and greater accountability of the Gardaí are urgently needed . The onus for change is on the Minister and the key to this is reform that introduces effective oversight of the Garda Síochána and real accountability to communities.

"The Gardaí are a legitimate police service, and I recognise the good work done by many Gardaí over the years. However, their history is not unblemished. And it is not just a case of a few bad apples in the Heavy Gang, or a bushel of them in Donegal. Misconduct has been much more widespread. The Special Branch has also been used as a political police force against republicans. The power of the Gardaí has been abused and those guilty have generally gotten off scot-free.

"Clearly it is long past the time for the establishment of the fully independent complaints procedure under a single Garda Ombudsman. Indeed, the Good Friday Agreement commitment to equivalence in human rights protections north and south requires the establishment of a single Garda Ombudsman.

“Republicans don’t pretend to have a monopoly on ideas in relation to justice and policing. There are questions about the future development of policing and justice on this island which we must consider as a society. Sinn Féin are determined to make our contribution to that debate. “ ENDS

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