The Downing Street website has the transcript of the press conference yesterday following the joint statement from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair. And, among the muted sounds of hope over history, there were a few answers that, in particular, deserve to be highlighted.From the transcript:
Taoiseach, first of all the question of policing seems to be a major issue for the DUP, in the sense that they expect anyone going into Cabinet with them, or Executive with them, to fully support law and order and policing. And secondly the DUP see alleged criminality, at local level within the nationalist community, as a major issue for them. First of all I want to ask, can policing be resolved from a republican perspective, do you believe collectively? And secondly, the question of criminality, will you spell out what you see as the status of alleged criminality or de facto criminality at the hands of the IRA in the Republic of Ireland at this point in time?
Policing is a major issue and we’ve always said it’s a major issue in the process, because all the way from the Patten reforms and what the Oversight Commissioner said, on the implementation of those we want to see policing resolved. Now parties have different views, but they’ve set out their views and in the negotiations we have to try and come to an agreement on that. But policing is a big major issue. In any society proper policing structures and acceptance of those policing structures are very important and that’s why we’ve had Patten. On criminality I’m glad to report there is no link whatsoever that we have traced in a long, long, long way back of IRA involvement in criminality of any kind in the Republic of Ireland.[added emphasis]
It may also point to the type of charges that may emerge from the, reportedly completed, investigation into money-laundering, Operation Phoenix..
Tony Blair was more reticent, pointing to the forthcoming IMC report in October, but adding a different reference that should be noted:
How do you see this policing issue resolved, given the Sinn Fein stance at the moment?
I think there are two things that I would say. The first is that in respect of whether parties are complying with the Agreement, the Independent Monitoring Commission report is the key. That is the determinant, that is the objective body that says whether the obligations that people have entered into are being complied with or not. And in respect of policing, the most important thing is that if we are going to create a society in which the rule of law is paramount, and where we pursue arguments through democracy. It’s important of course that anybody who is guilty of criminal offences is prosecuted in a fair way, under the law, and there should be no distinction between any people or any groups in respect of that. And that is the way to resolve it in my view.[added emphasis]
It should be noted because, as I’ve pointed out.. there is a way to approach for-profit terrorists of any kind – “You need to treat them as criminals”.. unfortunately, the lack of distinction between any people or any groups doesn’t seem to have filtered through here.
Is the apparent level of hypocrisy involved really the best we can hope for?