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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 December 2006, 18:34 GMT
Sinn Fein set to discuss policing
Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams
Policing has been a dividing issue between the DUP and Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein has announced it is calling a special meeting of its executive to discuss the issue of republican backing for policing in Northern Ireland.

Party leader Gerry Adams said the party's executive council would meet in Dublin on Friday.

He said he would put forward a motion asking for a special party-wide conference "on the policing issue".

Sinn Fein support for policing would be viewed as removing one of the main obstacles to restoring devolution.

Mr Adams said that if his motion was successful, the ard fheis (party conference) would be held in January.


"In the run-up to this ard fheis, there will be an intensive period of discussion within the party..." he said.

"Given the history of repressive and sectarian policing in the six counties, I don't want to underestimate the difficulties that this issue presents for many nationalists and republicans.

"However, the achievement of a new beginning to policing, as promised in the Good Friday Agreement, would be an enormous accomplishment."

DUP leader Ian Paisley said: "The calling of an ard comhairle, and later an ard fheis, are long overdue by Sinn Fein.

"Unionism will be interested in the quality of delivery on the ground when it comes to support for policing and the rule of law.

"Words alone have never been enough. The DUP will continue to push and push Sinn Fein on these matters."

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell welcomed Sinn Fein's decision and urged the party to "seize the initiative on policing".

"People on the ground have made the decision a long time ago that we need honest policing and we also need to protect the public," Mr McDonnell said.

'Lost battle'

"Until Sinn Fein engage seriously and honestly in the policing process, nationalist neighbourhoods will not have the policing they're entitled to."

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said Sinn Fein had "lost the battle on policing".

"They have no support outside their own ranks for their current policy," he said.

"The key to all of this is, what decision is the ard fheis being asked to endorse? Is it a qualified decision with power to be handed to the leadership to handle?

"It's a first step. Will it be clear-cut or will there be further obfuscation?"

Alliance Party leader David Ford said: "There is no point in holding the ard comhairle unless Gerry Adams is prepared to recommend to it that a special ard fheis is held to ensure that Sinn Fein moves forward and accepts its full responsibility in the area of justice and policing.

"Some of us have been waiting for this since 1998. It's long overdue but nonetheless welcome."

The British and Irish governments have named 7 March as the date for fresh assembly elections with a new executive expected to be up and running by 26 March.

Northern Secretary Peter Hain has announced that elections to the assembly will be held on 7 March.

Talks aimed at restoring the assembly and its executive have been taking place since the St Andrews Agreement negotiations in November.

Sinn Fein announces a special meeting to discuss policing





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