Sinn Féin launches policing consultation

Sinn Féin tonight began a wide consultation process with party members and supporters before deciding if it will support policing in the North.

Sinn Féin tonight began a wide consultation process with party members and supporters before deciding if it will support policing in the North.

The party’s leadership discussed the issue with its 53-member Ard Chomhairle during a three-hour meeting in Dublin.

Sinn Féin must hold a special Ard Fhéis in order to change its policy to support the PSNI – a key demand by the DUP in return for power-sharing.

Party chairperson Mary Lou McDonald said tonight that the consultation will take a number of weeks but that the question of a special Ard Fhéis on policing issue didn’t arise at this point.

“We have agreed a process of consultation throughout the entire party, all of the structures right down to the grassroots. That will start immediately. We will have full and genuine dialogue and debate with our people.

“We’re also looking to have a broader aspect of this consultation by reaching into the community.”

Party leader Gerry Adams added: “I’m not in a position at this point to put a proposal to the Ard Chomhairle in relation to an Ard Fhéis. There is ongoing work so the question of ‘when’ doesn’t arise at this point.”

Ms McDonald said the consultation would take a number of weeks.

“We won’t be taking any shortcuts on it but it is a relatively tight time frame.”

Mr Adams said that his party would not delay the political timetable leading to potential power-sharing in March, but quickly added that a Programme for Government Committee was expected to have began its work by now.

DUP leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, pulled out of the face-to-face meeting with Sinn Féin on Tuesday because he wanted Deputy First Minister nominee Martin McGuinness to take a sworn oath of office to support policing.

Mr Adams insisted that there may be a formula of words in a pledge of office that both parties can agree to.

But he added: “It cannot be a ’sack cloth and ashes’ pledge of office.”

He said he believed that the hope following the St Andrews Agreement of last week has not been dimmed.

“We just need to be steady as we seek to make progress,” he added.

He continued: “We will continue to try to make progress with our own membership on behalf of everybody who wants to see the future better than the past.”

He reiterated that Sinn Féin already supported law and order across Northern Ireland.

But he added: “We have suffered from bad policing. If you want to ask the experts on this island on bad policing, go and talk to the people who have been through the interrogation centres, on the receiving end of the plastic bullets and victims of collusion. Our people know about all of those issues.”

He said that MI5 and MI6 should not be allowed to continue with their “dirty tricks” without accountability.

He reiterated that there were no insurmountable issues for Sinn Féin in the political process leading into power-sharing.

In a further conciliatory move, Mr Adams is due to meet Church of Ireland bishops next week.

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