16 January 2006

Prepare for policing ‘challenges’ - Kelly

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Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly has strongly challenged the British government to ensure that next month’s new legislation on policing in the North is sufficient.
As Sinn Fein’s senior negotiator on policing, Mr Kelly also cautioned republicans to be prepared for “challenges" if the British government fulfils its commitments.
Mr Kelly was addressing over 200 republicans at a special all-Ireland policing and justice conference organised by Sinn Féin in West Belfast on Saturday. A range of experts also spoke at the event.
SDLP policing spokesperson Alex Attwood yesterday accused Sinn Féin of cynically using the issue of policing for “narrow tactical reasons".
In a wide-ranging speech ahead of his party’s Ard Fheis in four weeks, Gerry Kelly firmly challenged the British government to deliver on its commitments.
Critically, Mr Kelly also said that “the poisoned atmosphere created by political policing" should not make the achievement of a new policing dispensation impossible.
“Since last summer alone, the evidence of political policing has been irrefutable," Mr Kelly declared.
“This includes the political policing of loyalist marches; the revelations about former RUC members stealing information and thwarting murder investigations; the discovery that files on dozens of republicans including Sinn Féin elected representatives are kept in the PSNI’s Castlereagh barracks; the fact that these files had been passed onto unionist paramilitaries; politically motivated house-raids in Tyrone, Belfast and Down; trumped up charges and media misinformation orchestrated by sections of the PSNI; the high-profile arrest and false accusations against Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly; and the PSNI raid on the Casement Park home of the County Antrim GAA.
“Let’s be clear about their agenda. Our political enemies, in the institutions of this state, do not want a Shinner about the place. They don’t want the Good Friday Agreement.
“They don’t want change. They don’t want acceptable policing institutions and practices which would see Sinn Féin in there policing the police: all of this is anathema to our political enemies. This is the objective of political policing: the self-perpetuation of their power and their failures."
Criticising Sinn Fein’s political opponents for having “accepted too little" and “jumped too soon" in supporting the PSNI, Mr Kelly said they must carry some of the blame.
“In four years on the Policing Board, they have failed to hold the political detectives publicly to account and failed to end collusion and political policing. Instead, SDLP MPs have gone to Westminster and voted to reintroduce 28-day detention orders, taking us back to the days of the old Special Powers Act so opposed by the Civil Rights Movement.
“In the poisoned atmosphere created by political policing which I have just listed, the question is: is it possible to achieve a new policing dispensation? The answer to that is yes."
Mr Kelly said he was confident that Sinn Féin’s negotiators would secure a new beginning to policing.
“Republicans need to be acutely aware that if and when the Sinn Féin leadership achieves the objectives set in this area then this in turn will present further challenges for all activists. There is a public commitment if we reach that point to then put proposals to our membership and nationalism as a whole.
“While we are not at that point yet, activists need to realise that we can achieve it and with achievement there comes further responsibility," Mr Kelly said.
Attacking Sinn Féin’s stance, SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood said that “time is running out" for republicans to sign up to policing.
“Some will say that the comments of Gerry Kelly are more positive. The SDLP and everyone wishes it was so. However, Sinn Féin have said before that they would not be found wanting on policing, yet when the moment of decision came Sinn Féin were found wanting.
“No one says there are still not issues that need continued attention. However the change is unprecedented and unparalleled. The governments must tell Sinn Féin to act now," Mr Attwood said.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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