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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 January 2007, 20:55 GMT
Q&A: Sinn Fein's policing decision
Gerry Adams
The vote made history for Sinn Fein and Northern Ireland
Members of Sinn Fein have voted to support policing in Northern Ireland for the first time in their history.

Some 900 party members voted on the motion at a special party conference in Dublin.

The BBC's Northern Ireland correspondent Denis Murray explained to BBC News 24 what happened at the meeting and what the future holds.

What happened at the conference?

Sinn Fein voted to support policing, the courts and the rule of law by an overwhelming majority.

The way the vote was taken saw delegates holding up mandated cards to carry the votes.

[Sinn Fein] have become convinced that they have to do it, it's realpolitik.

It seemed the leadership had very little difficulty in persuading the grass roots although clearly there were some dissenting voices.

It's fair to say that anyone who is a republican who is deeply, deeply opposed to this in principle... they have probably already left Sinn Fein and belong to other organisations now.

Is this a day that many people thought they would never see?

The [peace] process has never failed to surprise in all the years it has been running.

But I think the Sinn Fein leadership came to see some time ago that signing up to policing and justice was as inevitable as the decommissioning of weapons.

It is yet another decision that they would rather not have had to take but they have become convinced that they have to do it, it's realpolitik.

It is an immutable law of politics, you cannot be in government and not back the police and the courts.

The next issue is going to be whether the Democratic Unionists will say 'that's enough'. Their reaction is likely to be, 'we want to see if they're going to deliver this and that it is not just words'.

And then the issue after that will be how long it takes to have a justice ministry, justice powers devolved to the Assembly in Northern Ireland if it gets up and running again.

So the motion passed says that it now accepts the institutions of law and order in the north?

Yes, and in the Republic as well. Clearly the party knew in advance that that had to be done.

I think the party leadership certainly was left in no doubt that this had to be done.

The key thing now is delivery, because that is what Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists have been talking about.

And also what the British government have been stressing, which is 'okay, it's going to be tough for you to take this decision, but you've got to do it, and then you've got to deliver'.

It means a lot of specific things. It means joining District Policing Partnerships, it means taking seats on the overall policing board, genuinely taking part.

But it also means, and Unionists have been saying this kind of thing, it means telling the police about crime.

That is a massive cultural change in Northern Ireland.


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