Sinn Fein ready to back the police?

Gerry Kelly has given an address to an all Ireland police and justice conference. It’s hard to know what to make of it since it refers to events and discussions that are not in, nor are ever likely to come into, the public domain. The party’s current position is the same as that agreed (in principle) with the DUP before Christmas (and the Northern Bank robbery): ie Sinn Fein would recognise the police only after the devolution of policing powers to local ministers. However Kelly, a senior member of Sinn Fein’s negotiating team seems to be hinting at a shift in the party’s stance, in what are likely to be billateral negotiations with the British government in the next few months:

It is not an impossible task and republicans need to be acutely aware that if and when the Sinn Fein leadership achieves the objectives it set in this area then this is turn will present further challenges for all activists. There is a public commitment if we reach that point to then put proposals to our membership and nationalism as a whole. While we are not at that point yet, activists need to realise that we can achieve it and with achievement there comes further responsibility.

Mr Kelly told the conference:

In the poisoned atmosphere created by political policing which I have just listed, the question is, is it possible to achieve a new policing dispensation. The answer to that is yes. Negotiations herald change. Change brings turmoil and soul searching. It also means breaking moulds. As political activists we must think strategically, debate strategically and decide what is best for our party, for the cause we represent and most importantly for the people we represent. We must do that in partnership and in dialogue with our community. Last December in theory at least, we were within months of having a decisive debate on this issue. Delegates were encouraged to go back to their areas and open up the debate within Sinn Fein and their communities.

Is this a sign perhaps the leadership is considering shifting its negotiating position of recognising the police before getting ministerial control? And the end note is just as enigmatic as Adams’ call on the Republican movement on the first day of the election campaign last April, and which eventually led to the IRA decommissioning the bulk of its arsenal last September:

I repeat that call today. Keep that discussion going.

So is this internal change management, or public bluff? Considering the unending pressure on the party over spying, their enforced public u-turn on OTR legislation, the controversy over the funding of the Community Restorative Justice schemes, and perhaps especially the eighteen month countdown to the Republic’s next general election, the party may be keen to put an end to the bad run its had in the media and seek closure on their position within Northern Ireland. So it may well be the former.

But as the man says, I wouldn’t bet the farm it.

  • fuiseog

    Beef or salmon wrote “remember last May’s election results in Lower Falls: Sinn Fein 5 cllrs, SDLP 0 cllrs!”

    Dia duit Beef or Salmon,

    comiserations that you and your mates were forced to miss Down Royal last November 😉

    Leaving aside your political point scoring ping pong match, with the excellent result of five seats in the lower falls last May comes the responsibility of actually using that influence as a force for progressive change in these areas.

    My sense of the situation is that Sinn Féin with an eye on the bigger picture have opted to deliberately remove themselves from the Albert streets and St James’ of West Belfast.

    Apart from one or two notable exceptions after dark, the public face of the movement is only to be seen ‘protecting’ the doors of the local bars and chippies with once prominent figures having a natter at the door of the ‘heavily protected’ local vivo supermarket.

    My very definate sense is that both here on Slugger and in the wider political arena we have effectively abandoned these kids to their own personal and individual resources. Then are bewildered when they sometimes act out through violence. Without moral direction or hope inevitably they lean towards their peers for that which they ought be getting from us as responsible adults, community workers and our elected political leaders.

    I personally have cause to come into contact with some of these young people from all over north and west belfast when it all gets too much for them and they for many reasons feel harming themselves or attempting to take their own lives is their best option.

    The dispair WE feel at their wanton violence and abhorant behaviour exactly mirrors the dispair THEY feel at the mess their lives are in right now.

    There is a whole generation of abandoned kids, who know nothing about the conflict, left to their own devices, condemed and vilified by those within the communities who have it in their gift to reach out and work to give them a better life.

    Im writing this as a protest at how these kids are abandoned by the movement and the local communities and are routinely left to the merciless paramilitary PSNI who, right outside Storey’s house, batons drawn, try to beat them off their own streets and then wonder why they get stoned out of the area.

    In days gone by the movement would have been outraged by such behaviour, the enemy beating our kids? Indeed today if it’s one of their own they shout to the rafters about it.

    So why arent Sinn Féin out protecting our kids from this tyranny? Is political expediency more valuable to Sinn Féin than protecting our children? Why instead is Kelly going to be calling on these kids to join the very force that is beating them?

    As well as protectively standing cock proud at the bar doors at the weekend, why is the movement not out showing these kids they are of value and worthy of our respect. Building relationships, engaging with them, listening to them, showing leadership, and yes assisting them in their dispair.

    Surely the kids are our most valuable resource, they are not all irredeemable, they need a voice and need to be heard … but no, there is nothing but a vulgar silence, projected fear and hatred towards them.

    Wasnt, for many, A better quality of life for our kids, free from oppression what the struggle was all about? That our kids wouldnt have to suffer like our generation did?

    To deliberately miss-quote Sands … ‘their revenge will be the slaughter of our children’ … I never, ever dreamed it would have been condoned by our own !!!

    is mise
    Tom Maguire

  • JD


    Your post seems a bit confused and repetative and I am not sure why you have fixated your response on Pat and not responded to me directly.

    However, you point to some incidents surrounding the Feile an Phobail, I have no reason to doubt them, but are you suggesting that the two week long event is not a massive morale boost for West Belfast with thousands participating, as is the Ardoyne Fleadh and the Gasyard Feile in Derry.

    None of these projects, spearheaded by republicans been heralded as alternatives to a proper policing service, however you asked what republicans are doing and I am giving you some examples.

    Good Morning North West has been sporned similar projects in West and North Belfast, Ballysillan and Donegal and they are growing from strength to strength.

    The point I am making is that this is a very complex area and takes a wide ranging strategic response that requires community involvement as well as the powers that be making the proper resources avialable to address the macro problems. Complaining about what someone else is doing or not doing, in your view, is a waste of time. Give people credit for at least trying.

    BTW The alleged forensic clean up is a complete media fantasy churned as part of an NIO/SDLP inspired attempt to damage CRJs credibilty.


    I agree with many of your comments, we cannot abandon our young people to despair, they are our future and as you rightly point out, if the struggle is about anything it is about securing a better future for our young people.

  • kate


    Apologies to Pat for directing the post to him. I was adressing the points in JDs posts, so much for trying to post whilst looking after toddlers!! Again apologies to Pat. In my defence I was picking up from where the debate had left off last night. Apologies.

    Yes JD I am saying that the feile in West Belfast is not a massive morale boost for all of west Belfast. I have said so in my post above.

    On the other point you are correct,credit where it is due, if someone is out there on a voluntary basis doing something thats a good thing. I do a limited amount myself. However, since I believed I was addressing Pat,and he previously called me a waster for not going out and remonstrating with drunken hoods, my post to you JD may have seemed over the top. Again I apologise.I need to be at pains to point out my mistake.

    Yes it does indeed take a wide range of answers to the problem of anti social behaviour, but doing a lot of community work without the option of calling the police for the old or vulnerable is not on. People need the stigma of calling the police removed and only SF can do so.

    The alleged clean up you write about is there you say to damage CRJs credibility. And the alleged spy ring was to damage credibility, and the bank job. The McCartney murder, the names outed since Donaldson. That excuse is too lame JD. Its been used to many times.

    I am not saying that republicans are doing nothing, but these areas are crying out for proper law and order. No half measures and as far as I am concerned zero tolerance.

  • kate

    Gonzo when you say Mr Hartley can be seen around Belfast I think Beef or Salmon meant he had gone no where, in other words he was still in the party and nothing had changed, as opposed to he wasn’t around.

    Please don’t take my word for it, I’ve been mixing up my names all morning, as can be seen by my apology to JD. LOL.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Fair enough.

  • kate

    Tom Maguire that was a great post!! Our children and communities are in a pitiful mess. May God help those you look out for, and hopefully they too with the old and vulnerable get the help they need. I now after this thread have a little understanding of the situation of the young in our own areas, thats a hard thing to do when one can be confronted by gangs vandalising and intimidating.

  • BTW The alleged forensic clean up is a complete media fantasy churned as part of an NIO/SDLP inspired attempt to damage CRJs credibilty.


  • missfitz

    Having been left quite confused, after being called a duck by Kate, quite early in this post, I have just watched the debate unfold.

    At one point, I felt that MOPEry was going to engulf the entire conversation. The poor undervalued children and terrified old folks. Why, no-one on earth has suffered as much or as beadly as we in Belfast.

    Utter tosh.

    The problems being faced in Belfast, are completely similaar to any being felt in any urban centre. Indeed, chronicles of life in Belfast at the turn of the 19/20 century tell of pretty simialr conditions.

    So, much of this is not new, it is a product of connurbation and pressures of living. Underemployment, ease of aid from the welfare state and the breakdown of traditional family social units continue to feed this problem.

    We need to step back from assigning all guilt and power from para military organisations. Yes, they are an element, but have been an element for decades if not longer.

    The problem is more fundamental. Policing is certainly a requirement: the maintenance of law and order has got to be established to protect the vulnerable.

    The rest of the picture also has to be examined though; the jobs, the occuaptions, the spare time of the youth. We are witnessing cycles repeating themselves over the years.

    When Bulmer Hobson established the boys clubs in 1902 that went on to become na Fianna, the purpose was the same then that it is now: get them off the street and involved in sport and other activities.

    In many ways, everyone who has posted is right. We need fair policing, acceptable to all. We need community awareness and involvement to foster ownership of our streets.

    But we really need to steer away from the attitude that this is unique, political or special. It isnt.

  • kate

    Having been left quite confused after being called a duck by kate.

    Miss Fitz, at the beginning of this thread you wrote a post along the lines of ‘if it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck it is a duck’
    I was merely agreeing with you that it was a duck. ie the statement that we are discussing from Gerry Kelly. I was merely agreeing and wrote in my post ‘missfitz it’s a duck’.

    Considering I have been called a waster because I said I would not go out and remonstrate with drunken doped yobs, I think I may have been more than pleased to be called a duck. Infact I call my children and nieces and nephews etc wee ducks. If I have offended I apologise.

    However, I am glad you agree with me that law and order needs to be established to protect the vulnerable. The other points you raise. I believe many have said that the answer is not down to one single thing but a range of issues including those you raise.

    As regards to being special. I,myself do not see out situation as special but perhaps the last 30 years and the legacy of paramilitarism could be said to make us a little bit more needy and different in respect to how we solve our situation. For certain tom maguires post has softened my attitude a little toward young teraways. I now have a little more understanding of their situations,but I still believe in zero tolerance but perhaps with a smaller z than before.

  • missfitz

    Why thanks Kate, I was a bit worried that duck was some sort of slugger code word for the uninititated.

    I may have been a bit foreceful, but my point on the “specialness” is meant to enlighten the debate. I worked in the South Bronx in the early 1980’s and each time any of left the department for coffee, we had an armed guard! Home visits to patients were always accompanied by armed security, and the chances of getting caught in the cross fire were high. One summer, there was a rolling body count of young men who died in the drug and gang wars, and it wasnt unusual to have 10 or 15 vicitms per night brought into the trauma suite.

    David Dinkins was the mayor of New York at that time, and was replaced by, yes you guessed it, zero tolerance Guiliani. New York was transformed within a relatively short space of time.

    And the cries of “we’re different, we’re controlled by gangs, we have no choice, we cannot change” were soon ended. Gang leaders were rounded up and jailed, and their strangelhold on neighbourhoods evaporated.

    While I respect and hold fundamental republican beliefs, I hold no truck with gangsters.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    no need to apologise for being confused, it was obvious from your participation in the discussion that you were in a rather confused state. i wish you a speedy recovery.

  • kate

    There was nothing extended your way Pat so rest assured. My arguments where as coherent as anyone elses. The fact that your childishness in telling people to go and remonstrate with yobs showed your argument to be demolished. Infact you had no argument. You made a few posts and all of them to play the man instead of the ball. That is there for anyone to see who wishes to read the thread again. When one poster tells another they deserve all they get-it shows they have lost the argument entirely.

    Perhaps you can do better next time.

  • kate

    ps Pat still waiting to hear your workable ideas, and you still have not answered C Stalins question on the role of the police. No matter Pat everyone knows from your previous posts you don’t have too many clever ideas LOL.

  • marty

    David Dinkins was the mayor of New York at that time, and was replaced by, yes you guessed it, zero tolerance Guiliani. New York was transformed within a relatively short space of time.

    I’m getting off topic here, but see the link below (was in last Sunday’s Observer) regarding how NY was transformed. Interesting reading, especially the bit about crack and AIDS “removing” a large element of the problem.

    Probably easiest to copy and paste link into your browser,16937,1686655,00.html

  • marty

    Ah! The new Slugger auto-formats a link, cool.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    it seems you are still a tad confused and are having a little difficulty following the thread. Let me re-cap.

    Firstly you lauded the fact that when paramilitaries were on the streets they were able to keep anti social behaviour under control. Though a few posts later you did an almighty backflip and agreed with CS that republicans bear responsibility for the lawlessness(sic) in republican areas. Which is it do they control the problem or do they create it?

    You then drifted into a senseless tirade against republicans that included denigrating Tom Hartley.
    The point of which is lost on me. The central tenet of your rants (if I interpret them correctly) is that SF in your area stood by while these gangs took over.

    Now my original intervention was to try and ascertain just exactly people of your ilk were doing while this take over was ongoing. Reading betwen the lines it was nothing.

    Except at hinting at some sort of support for the police you did not put forward one credible alternative to what is ongoing in nationalist areas to combat criminal behaviour (although supporting the police would be just another sell out). Othet than whingeing at your lot and finger pointing you have nothing to offer.

    Could you please come back at me with queries on my posts, not someone elses. Try and not be confused and try and be a lucid and constructive as possible. It facilitates communication if you are on message and have an idea what you are talking about.


    In the multi layered approach that is needed to fight crime there is indeed a place for a community based policing service. For you to describe hostility to the present force because of the record of that force over collusion as disingenuous is dishonest.

    In EU terms the island of Ireland and especially the six northern counties have low crime rates. In that context exaggerations are unhelpful.

  • missfitz

    That was excellent, thank you very much. Good piece of reading for anyone interested in criminal justice as well.

    I am trying to fish out an atricle I wrote at the time published in the New York Post, I think it captured the grittiness referred to in that article!