Sharon O’Neil reports (subs needed) an interesting perspective on yesterday’s meeting between Sinn Fein and the Cheif Constable of the PSNI from historian Eammon Phoenix:
“Not since 1922 has a Sinn Fein leader discussed policing with an official representative of the Northern Ireland state.
“Craig met Collins and a Catholic recruiting committee was set up in Belfast, chaired by Bishop MacRory of Down and Connor to, if you like, select suitable Catholics for the police force. At that time this divided republican opinion in the north and the scheme was eventually blocked by the old unionist minister of home affairs who was in charge of policing, Sir Dawson Bates.
“He set out to disrupt the new scheme on the grounds that it would endanger the Protestant control of the police. Therefore the scheme collapsed in 1922. From 1922 until today there has been no republican engagement with the police authorities on the crucial issues of policing.
“It has taken 82 years to get to a point where a northern republican leader is meeting the head of the PSNI, the reformed police force, to discuss the broad issue of policing/demilitarisation”.
And he’s sanguine over the chances of a deal being struck:
“You have Sinn Fein recognising the reality that qualified Catholics are prepared to join the new force since Patten.
“You also have the Sinn Fein recognition of the requirement of the two governments that to be in government Sinn Fein must accept the existing police force that is the bottom line of Blair and Ahern.
“Sinn Fein must be seen to support the law of the land. It is the acceptability of the realpolitik by the new pragmatic leaders of the republican movement”.