Sinn Féin’s task will be to deliver a non-partisan police service in the North if it takes the groundbreaking step of supporting the PSNI, Gerry Adams insisted today.
At the start of a series of debates within the republican community over the coming week in the run up to the special Sinn Féin Conference on policing, Mr Adams said he had made up his mind on the need for his party to get involved six weeks ago.
And he also told about 200 republicans who gathered in Toome in Co Antrim: “I am asking for your permission to enter into another area of struggle.
“We do not want to leave policing to the unionists. We do not want to leave policing to the securocrats.”
About 2,000 Sinn Féin members will gather in Dublin in eight days time to decide if the party should take the historic step of endorsing the police on both sides of the border.
However the West Belfast MP told the audience in Toome that it was not Sinn Féin’s intention to act as recruiting sergeants for the PSNI.
“We have clear knowledge of how bad policing has been in this state,” the Sinn Féin leader said.
“We also have evidence, very bad evidence in terms of the Special Branch and also the Special Branch of the Garda Siochana, the Heavy Squad and the Morris Tribunal.
“The police services require to be kept under democratic accountability.
“Our job is to serve our communities, to make sure our communities have depoliticised and non-partisan policing.
“The job of Sinn Féin representatives is to make sure that happens.”
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have identified Sinn Féin support for policing as critical to efforts to revive power sharing at Stormont in March.
Without Gerry Adams’s party declaring support for the PSNI, the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists will not contemplate forming a devolved government with Sinn Féin.
Sinn Féin’s motion to its special conference in eight days time makes the party’s support for policing dependent on the formation of the power-sharing government and assurances that devolved ministers will have control over policing and justice.
But it also holds out the possibility of Sinn Féin support for the police in North and the Gardaí if Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern come forward with acceptable partnership arrangements to advance the Good Friday Agreement in the event of there being no power-sharing government.
Sinn Féin’s policing spokesman Gerry Kelly, the party’s Northern Ireland MEP Bairbre de Brun and Assembly member Francie Molloy were among those taking party in today’s meeting.
Mr Adams was also due to travel after the first public debate to Galbally in Co Tyrone for another debate later today.