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November 20, 2006

NI Parties To Meet Today After Postponement

News About Ireland & The Irish

IT 11/20/06 NI Parties To Meet Today After Postponement
UT 11/19/06 Hain Warning Over N Ireland Devolution Deadline
SB 11/19/06 Opin: SF Must Say Yes To Policing


NI Parties To Meet Today After Postponement

The North's two largest political parties, the Democratic
Unionists and Sinn F‚in, are due to meet today for the
first sitting of the Stormont programme for government

The first meeting of the body last month was postponed days
after the St Andrews Agreement when the Northern Secretary
Peter Hain called it off the difficulty over a ministerial
pledge of support for the PSNI and the rule of law
developed between the two parties.

The meeting, to be held in private between the Ulster
Unionists, DUP, SDLP and Sinn F‚in, kicks off a week packed
with key political meetings in advance of Friday's meeting
of the "Transitional" Assembly and the nomination of a
First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley, who pulled out of the
original meeting, will not attend today's session. The Sinn
F‚in delegation will be headed by party president Gerry

Mr Hain will be in Westminster for the readings of last
week's emergency Bill designed to give effect to the St
Andrews Agreement. The legislation is due to pass its House
of Commons stages tomorrow and the House of Lords on

Under the two Governments' plan for reviving power sharing,
Mr Paisley was due to be appointed First Minister Designate
in the Northern Ireland Assembly this week along with Sinn
F‚in's Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister

However, it is now anticipated neither man will be elevated
to the top two cabinet posts in a devolved government when
the Assembly meets this Friday.

Today's meeting takes place amid warnings from the British
and Irish governments that the leading nationalist and
unionist parties must meet key challenges.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said yesterday
there were no credible reasons left for the two main
parties not to do business with each other.

Mr Hain wants the DUP and Sinn F‚in to signal who their
nominees will be in the event of power sharing returning
next March.


Hain Warning Over Northern Ireland Devolution Deadline

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain has warned
that a 'political end game' is looming in the bid to revive
power-sharing government in the country.

By:Press Association

With the November 24 deadline for elections to a
transitional Assembly looming, Mr Hain underlined the stark
choice: devolution or dissolution.

But he expressed confidence that all politicians in
Northern Ireland understood the options and would rise to
the occasion.

The British government confirmed last week that elections
for a new Assembly will be held on March 7, 2007.

This comes ahead of a March 26 deadline for the permanent
restoration of devolution.

Legislation being rushed through the House of Commons this
week will establish a transitional Assembly on November 24.

This would be dissolved next January, ahead of the

Interviewed on ITV1`s Politics Show today, Mr Hain said:
"Really where we are now is in the political end game."

He said peace, stability and prosperity had transformed
Northern Ireland `beyond recognition`, but added: "The
politicians haven`t caught up with that change.

"They`re going to do so, I`m sure, in the process which
begins on Friday."

Mr Hain said issues on policing and the rule of law would
become `crystal clear` when the legislation is introduced
in Commons on Tuesday.

He added: "When March 26 comes and the ministers take their
place in the Executive - and that will happen then I`m sure
- devolution will happen or else it will be dissolution.

"At that point, all the ministers will need to take the
pledge which emphatically and explicitly says support for
the police and support for the rule of law."

The Northern Ireland Secretary said the key difficulty
remained `lack of trust` between the parties.

He said: "What Sinn Fein needs to do is sign up to policing
and the rule of law, that`s one pillar of this process.
What the DUP needs to do is to sign up to power sharing,"
he continued.

"I`m confident that all the politicians in Northern Ireland
now understand it`s devolution on March 26, after an
endorsement by the people through an election, or it`s


Opin: SF Must Say Yes To Policing

19 November 2006
By Tom McGurk

Sinn Fein is about to face up to the reality of supporting
the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Sinn Fein is about to face up to the reality of supporting
the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Understandably, the decision is one that will cut to the
quick of the republican movement.

Policing in the North has been little more than a
reflection of its inherent political and social instability
and an expression of its sectarian institutionalism.

The RUC was set up after partition in the North to replace
the RIC, the old all-Ireland colonial police force. From
the outset, the RUC had two functions: to police the state
and - given the state was conceived in such bitter
historical circumstances - to double as an armed force to
protect the North.

If nationalists were considered by unionists to be the
`enemy within', it fell to the RUC to act accordingly.
Historically, this was a role that effectively prevented
the RUC from ever winning nationalist approval,
irrespective of its normal policing function.

From the outset, the RUC's paramilitary and pro-unionist
character was the template designed by the Stormont regime.

Originally conceived as a full-time force with three
reserve forces - the A, B and C Special constabularies -
its paramilitary character was immediately obvious in the
early years.

Thanks to the generosity of Winston Churchill, it was
equipped from the beginning as if it were an army, with
rifles, automatic weapons and even light tanks.

At one stage it achieved the status of a fully-mechanised
and armed paramilitary force of nearly 15,000 people.

Even worse, among its original recruits were significant
numbers of former loyalist UVF paramilitaries, recruited to
the full-time and, in particular, reserve forces. The
reserves kept their uniforms and weapons at home and
brought to the RUC shades of 17th century yeomanry or
militia-type forces.

Since these UVF gangs had been at the heart of the
organised pogrom against Catholics in Belfast and Lisburn
before and after partition, the suspicion was that the new
Stormont administration saw this as a method of at least
containing its wilder men.

One third of the force was supposed to be Catholic, but
that never came about. In fact, many former RIC men who
were Catholic were, in their own words, ``driven out''.
With its own Orange Lodge, its links to militant unionism
and with `law and order' at the heart of unionist concerns,
the RUC was very soon the ``Protestant police force for the
Protestant state''.

It policed the North against the IRA threat across the
years and when the civil rights movement began in 1968, it
was the RUC that met it on the streets. Its 30-year war
with the IRA followed, with the Special Branch at the

The Cameron Report in 1969 ended the B Specials, which was
replaced by the UDR, a locally-recruited regiment under the
nominal control of the British Army.

RUC casualties were huge: large numbers died or were
wounded in the war with the IRA.

The controversial role of the Special Branch in that
conflict continues even today to poison the atmosphere.
Investigations into the RUC's collusion with loyalist
paramilitaries in sectarian assassinations and bombings

In the end, it was this linkage with paramilitarism that
ultimately destroyed the reputation of the RUC. The Patten
Report called for a new beginning and a new community
police force. If, following the Good Friday Agreement, the
North were to have a new political beginning, it clearly
needed a new police force. And so the PSNI was born.

Seven years on, Sinn Fein's journey to constitutional
politics requires it to become part of the North's wider
policing community.

In many ways, it is the last and possibly most difficult
hurdle to cross. The historical legacy of policing in the
North is still a live issue; Sinn Fein will be requiring
those who fought the police to now become part of it.

Irrespective of the DUP's idiotic attempts to make Sinn
Fein's recognition of the new police force a symbolic act
of surrender, the political reality and political
requirement are that Sinn Fein has no choice in the matter.
How can it exercise devolved regional government and not be
part of the wider police community, particularly since
local political control is at the heart of the new police

There are pressing reasons even within Sinn Fein's own
heartlands to face up to the policing issue. In many
nationalist areas criminality has filled the vacuum left by
IRA decommissioning and by the PSNI's limited acceptance in
these areas.

For example, a local feud in Ballymurphy in west Belfast
has created mayhem.

Ironically, where the IRA's domination of some nationalist
areas had given Sinn Fein political leverage in the
creation of the new political dispensation, decommissioning
has now created a law and order crisis for them in the same

If one forgives the metaphor, the time has come to bite the
bullet. Against all the historical legacy for nationalists
and policing in the North, the overwhelming new context is
that violence has now ended. That has changed everything,
and it will also change the whole policing context.

As a result, policing should not become either as
politicised or as divisive as it was in the past. Patten
has promised community-based policing and the only way that
Sinn Fein can validate how successful that has become is by
becoming part of the communal police effort.

Beyond all that, it gives young nationalists - for the
first time in the history of the North - an opportunity to
serve the community in the police force. Ian Paisley's
mischief-making about rubbing the police and the law and
order issue in the faces of Sinn Fein is evidence of no
more than his classic corner-boy mentality.

He presumes that law and order are somehow the same as they
used to be back in the good old days. One suspects that on
this - as in most other things in the changing North - he
is wrong again.

The peace process has changed so much, because it has had
to visibly support a new civic society, where equality
rules. And the North is now underpinned not by Westminster
dictates but rather by practical joint authority from
London and Dublin.

Having established that fact, Sinn Fein has so far turned
unionism on its head by building a political machine and
then working the new system. Why has unionism been so keen
to turn it off at the slightest excuse? Given all this, why
should policing, in the long run, prove any different?
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