Jim Dougal in today’s Irish Times argues that common trust cannot be arrived it without a common police force and that it is time that Sinn Fein took up their seats on the Policing Board (subs needed) to look after the interests of the 25% of Northern Irish voters who elected them.
Members of Sinn Féin could join the body without denying their principles. Therefore, their refusal must be tactical and a matter of timing. But they should take their seats and devise ways of building trust with other parts of the community. While restorative justice schemes may have some legitimate local role, as long as they are not linked to paramilitaries, there must be some oversight of them. They are not a substitute for joined-up policing.
By joining the district policing partnerships, representing local communities in the 26 Northern Ireland council areas, the board would give republicans an input to day-to-day policing and enable younger republicans to join the service. In this they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Northern Ireland must have a police service based in the community which is conscious of the needs of the community.