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banner Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Sinn Fein warns of policing crisis
Northern Ireland faces a "mounting crisis" over policing, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly warned a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference in Brighton on Wednesday.

Sinn Fein's Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness, had been expected to attend the meeting, entitled "Working for Irish Unity" but did not, in the end, lend his voice to a platform that was united in its criticism of the British government's approach to policing reform in Northern Ireland.

Chris Patten is no friend of Republicanism

Gerry Kelly
"Peter Mandelson is breaking his word" to Republicans by failing to deliver a police service acceptable to the Republican communities, Mr Kelly alleged.

"Nationalists have been at the brunt end of a sectarian police force for eighty years," he said, "my fear is that they will be again."

'No faith in Patten report'

Republicans needed to be convinced that the recommendations on policing made by Chris Patten took as much account of their interests as they did of those of the Unionist community, he said.

The mood of the meeting swung between doom-laden pronouncements on the issue of policing and forward-looking optimism for the future of a united Ireland.

Mr Kelly demonstrated a bluntness in his criticism of aspects of the peace process reminiscent of Mr. McGuinness himself.

"Chris Patten is no friend of Republicanism," he said, adding that he personally "had no great faith in the (Patten) report."

British 'save Dave' policy

The British government has focussed too heavily on shoring up David Trimble's position within his own party, the Ulster Unionists, and too little on implementing the letter of the Patten agreement, continued Mr Kelly.

Dismissing this approach as "save Dave policy", he turned his attention to the issue of concessions on the Patten report: "We (Republicans) want David Trimble to be saved, but if saving him means diluting the Patten agreement, then we could be looking at the same policing situation in perpetuity."

In a speech clearly designed to remind the British government of what he saw as its obligations to the Republican community, Mr Kelly spoke repeatedly of the British government's "promises" to Republicans.

Righting Wrongs

Arthur Morgan, Sinn Fein councillor, was under no illusions as to where the government's duty lay on the question of Northern Ireland policing.

"The British labour party now has the opportunity to correct some of the injustices that successive British governments have inflicted on our country," he said.

It fell to Mr Kelly to deliver a message of encouragement to citizens of Northern Ireland, many of whom have waited a lifetime for peace in the province.

"People need to know they have to keep pushing" for change, he urged. A policing solution acceptable to all is "not an impossible task, but it is a hard task."

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