While some continue to prefer to see any examination of the grey areas as an attempt to erect new hurdles for Sinn Féin, reports today indicate that as Gerry Adams prepares for tea at Chequers with Tony Blair he may have in mind a couple of hurdles of his own. First up is a renewed attempt to broach the subject of fugitives from justice, aka On-The-Runs. A topic that Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain was forced to withdraw from parliament after defending the proposals in print.. and after his own moral compass was questioned [not for the first or last time – Ed]. Additionally Adams, once again, slips in the ‘c’ word in regards to his comments on policing – control, ie a step beyond accountability.It’s also worth recalling Peter Hain’s comments on the OTR issue, from January this year. If it’s included in any resulting package of proposals we will, no doubt, be required to once again ignore the grey areas.
“The Government could have proceeded with this Bill when the issue was first raised seven years ago. We could have done so when the Joint Declaration was made in 2003. But we did not because the IRA had not delivered on its promise to end its war. We waited until that happened.[Just a thought, but if that was the case then, why the renewed declaration now?]
“Every Northern Ireland Party vigorously opposed the Bill, bar Sinn Fein. Now Sinn Fein is opposed because they refused to accept that this legislation should apply to members of the security forces charged with terrorism-related offences.
“Mr Speaker, to exclude any members of the security forces who might have been involved in such offences from the provisions of the Bill would not only have been illogical, it would have been indefensible and we would not do it. Closure on the past cannot be one-sided.
“That was, and is, non-negotiable.”[added emphasis]
The comments by Adams on policing are also worth looking at more closely
Asked about Sinn Fein’s position on policing, he said: “Sinn Fein is for law and order, we are for social justice, we are for decent, accountable civic-controlled policing. Let’s get that and then let’s move forward.”
However debatable that assertion may be, accountable policing is not the same as civic-controlled policing, not least when that control is to be exercised by party-political representatives.
Accountablility is part of assessing the performance of the police, but the police must also have operational independence, otherwise the very issues contained in those grey areas become potential conflicts of interest where there is a danger, and the opportunity, for accountability to take second place to party-political expediency.