The interesting point to note in the statement released on the NIO website on Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, and self-declared candidate for Deputy Leader [that’s an optimistic 5/2 odds – Ed], Peter Hain’s speech to the NI Police Federation is the chosen emphasis “Support for the Police is fundamental in every society.” Of course, the late Denis Faul said it better, “Either there is law or no law. That is the basis of a civilised society”. But it calls into question Peter Hain’s previous pronouncements on policing and political parties lack of support for policing. Added below
IN his Glenties speech earlier this summer he attempted to draw a distinction between supporting the police and constitutional endorsement
“I would strongly urge the republican leadership to draw a distinction between constitutional endorsement of the structures of policing and support for the practical service of policing in the community.”
An attempt that Gerry Adams, rightly IMO, described as “patronising republicans”… and, I’d add, everyone else.
But it was in an interview in the Newsletter that Hain made it clear that he believed that support for policing could be secondary to other considerations, ie not fundamental at all.
News Letter: But it is also about not making the mistake that has been made in the past. You have admitted the Government has been a bit too optimistic about republicans in the past. There must be an absolute end to crime and violence, so a deal sticks.
Peter Hain: Oh, I agree and I have acknowledged that with Ian Paisley when he has put that point to me privately and I do so now. The DUP deserves a lot of credit for insisting the violence and the criminality has to be stripped out of Northern Ireland politics and republicanism.
But I think with republican politics, having moved in response to that pressure, absolutely radically, there is then an issue, as I said in my letter, as to whether you grasp this opportunity. Do you say, we are better having everyone inside the tent where we can really influence them? Where Ian Paisley can say to Martin McGuinness in an Executive, I won’t agree to the devolution of policing and justice until you guys have signed up fully for cooperation for the police. You can better do that inside, when you are negotiating and bargaining on a future government programme, rather than just be screaming at each other.
Added Given the focus, in the initial comments, on one particular tree in the wood, it’s worthwhile recalling what Peter Hain had to say on the issue of policing, and support for it, in an interview by the Irish Times’s Frank Millar, as noted in May this year
“I think Sinn Féin do need to put themselves on the road – and I think they have started off warily down this road – to co-operating with the police. I’m not saying, ‘Join the policing board tomorrow’. But there is a commitment they have given, which I’ll expect them to honour, that when we’ve got royal assent for the Bill devolving policing and justice, they then need to take positive moves to call a conference.They’ve promised that and I’m sure that they will.”
That’s the assent for the Bill, not the actual transfer of powers? “No, until you’ve got institutions to devolve to, you can’t devolve.” And the timetable for that? “Well it’s due to get royal assent by the summer recess, by the end of July.”
Mr Hain says he can’t be certain of the timing of any Sinn Féin ardfheis, and declines to speculate as to whether the party might actually be ready to join the board and endorse the PSNI in time for a November deal. He also stresses: “There’s a radical difference between trying to solve problems and difficult issues like policing, which is what we’re doing, and using those difficult issues to erect a hurdle to power-sharing. . . I agree with what Dermot Ahern said in The Irish Times on Tuesday, that there’s a danger here of continually shifting the goalposts.”
Yet he is also confident: “Provided nobody’s playing games, then it’s in Sinn Fein’s interest – since their declared objective is to get into government with the DUP and the others – to build trust and remove an excuse from unionists and everybody, because we all want them to co-operate with policing. It’s in their interests to remove that excuse which could act as a final obstacle.“[added emphasis]