Thursday, June 16, 2005

SDLP demands that Sinn Féin backs police "reforms"

The British and Irish Governments were today urged to insist that Sinn Féin backs policing in Northern Ireland regardless what the next IRA statement says.

As officials in London and Dublin anxiously awaited the Provisionals' response to Gerry Adams' call for them to consider abandoning armed struggle, the nationalist SDLP's Eddie McGrady accused republicans of playing games with the electorate over their commitment to democracy and on law and order.

And he also warned the British government it must not compromise the peace process by using policing or other issues to cut a side deal with republicans.

The South Down MP argued: "For the past 10 years the entire community has been led a merry dance by the Provisional movement who flirted with democracy through Sinn Féin while remaining wedded to criminal and paramilitary activity through the IRA.

"As Sinn Féin sidestepped their political obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, the IRA was used as both a carrot and stick measure to tease and test the rest of democratic Ireland.

"Only a party as duplicitous as Sinn Féin could at the same time embrace the IRA and all its activities while speaking about justice and democracy out of the other side of their mouths.

"Sinn Féin cannot and should not be allowed to sidestep their responsibilities any longer.

"Both governments must ensure that Sinn Féin, in the event of any IRA statement or not, take the logical step of facing up to their responsibility of actively supporting and participating in the policing of Northern Ireland."

In a groundbreaking move in 2001, the SDLP became the first nationalist party in the history of Northern Ireland to endorse a police service there following reforms introduced in the wake of recommendations from a commission chaired by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten.

Unlike the SDLP, Sinn Féin has declined its seats on the Northern Ireland Policing Board and local District Policing Partnerships because they believe the reforms do not go far enough.

The party has pressed for the transfer of policing and criminal justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.

The SDLP must realize that they made a huge mistake in accepting the token "reforms" offered by the British government. The fact that Sinn Fein increased it seats in both the Westminster and local elections while the SDLP did not, must have made the SDLP aware of how unhappy the indigenous Irish Catholic population is with the current state of policing in the Six Counties. It is unlikely that Sinn Fein would be foolish enough to give in to the SDLP's pathetic demands.


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