Sinn Fein blocking implementation of Patten?

Pete blogged a series of interviews conducted by Frank Millar with a fairly comprehensive cast of players from the current devolution drama: Gerry Adams; Ian Paisley; Peter Hain; Mitchell Reiss; and Dermot Ahern. If you want to get a handle on where we really are, all of these are worth a re-read. But the last of them, in which the Republic’s Minister for Foreign Affairs asserted that policing would not be a pre-condition for re-engagement in November, has an interesting parliamentary coda from his colleague Noel Treacy.A couple of weeks after the Irish Times interview, Treacy was asked by two Labour Deputies:

Ms McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, further to his interview in a newspaper (details supplied) on 9 May 2006, the Government position on Sinn Féin supporting the PSNI and joining the Northern Ireland Policing Board, has changed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, further to his interview in a newspaper (details supplied) on 9 May 2006, he will clarify his position on Sinn Féin joining the Northern Ireland Policing Board; if the Government is demanding that Sinn Féin express its support publicly for the PSNI before the Executive is formed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to Sinn Féin joining the Northern Ireland Policing Board; if the formation of a new Executive in Northern Ireland will be accompanied by Sinn Féin signalling support for the PSNI; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Ms McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs further to his interview in a newspaper (details supplied) on 9 May 2006, the elements of the Patten report that have to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Treacy gives a long and detailed answer but the meat in the sandwich (as regards the previous Ahern response) is this:

….these few outstanding issues should not preclude Sinn Féin from endorsing policing. The absence of that party from the policing board and district policing partnerships is now the most significant omission in terms of implementing the Patten recommendations. In the context of the ongoing political process, support for policing remains a critical element in implementing a new political dispensation for Northern Ireland.

And yet, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin’s response a bit later on, gives no indication that Sinn Fein is even remotely ready to move on this issue:

Thankfully it will be the membership of Sinn Féin that will determine our response to policing as it presents at any given time in the North of Ireland and any plans and proposals regarding same.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty