According to The Irish News, Mr Adams is to take part today in two discussions, at the O’Neill Arms in Toomebridge, Co Antrim, and then at the community centre in Galbally, Co Tyrone, and is also due to address the Seamus Harvey commemoration event in south Armagh, at Flynn’s Cross, Coolderry in Crossmaglen at 2.30pm today. He will also will address a public meeting at Derry’s Millennium Forum next Thursday. (A UTV report is also available.)Sinn Fein is also preparing to mobilise voters watching the March 7th, election day Celtic v AC Milan Champions League match, and “blitz bars across the north with half-time announcements aimed at getting voters to the polls.” .
SF policing position ‘will not lead to serious split’
By William Graham
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has indicated he does not think there will be a serious split in his party over policing but the challenge ahead should not be underestimated.
Speaking as meetings of republicans take place across the north ahead of an ard fheis on signing up to policing structures, Mr Adams was asked by The Irish News about the dangers of a split.
“I think not,’’ he said. “Contrary to what our detractors from outside Sinn Fein say, this is the most democratic phase of republican politics that I have seen in my lifetime.’’
The West Belfast MP said during internal meetings the party had argued ferociously about the right things to do, but it was united in its pursuit of “a better Ireland, a national republic, in which citizens are treated on the basis of equality”.
He said he believed the vast majority of people who have been involved in republican activity “are broadly speaking with this strategy.’’
“Do we all agree on every step that is taken? No we don’t but we are mature enough to know that we will have our argument and stay united afterwards,’’ he said.
Mr Adams was asked when, if the policing motion is carried, he believed police officers would be able to live in republican areas and indeed republicans join the force.
He said the party’s ard chomhairle believes a threshold has been reached on accountability mechanisms for the PSNI “which allows us to have a sustainable involvement in a new policing dispensation’’.
“Our job is to keep the police accountable, whether in the Garda Siochana or the PSNI.
“We also have a job to defend our communities from rapists, from criminals, from death-riders, from those who prey upon the most vulnerable sections, from those despicable elements who go in and terrorise old people in their own homes.
“If policing is to be genuinely a service of civic policing, then of course people who join that service, as other public servants, need to feel free to live wherever they want.
“It may take a number of political generations for the PSNI to win the confidence of those who have been on the frontline of the tactics employed by the old RUC.
“But that’s for the PSNI to do – to energetically win the confidence.
“They do that by being professional, by being non-partisan, by upholding people’s rights as opposed to upholding the state.
“People have to be persuaded that regardless of our political allegiances and political objectives, we can have some confidence in the agencies of the state, that they can be kept accountable.’’
Mr Adams said he had been meeting a lot of republicans in recent times, including people who are not activists but whose loved ones had been killed by the RUC.
“Those people are saying to me: We know what you are trying to do and good luck to you, but we could not support the police. I have to say fair enough.
“There is a huge challenge for the PSNI.”
Asked about the weeks ahead, Mr Adams said the ard fheis was being asked to agree with the leadership “that we are in a position now to support the PSNI and it will set out the terms of reference for us doing that’’.
“It will also mandate the ard chomhairle of the party to implement the motion.
“My focus has not been on the implementation of the motion but on getting the support in the first instance of our own organisation and our own support base for this initiative, and secondly to win at least some understanding from those opposed to us.’’
Sinn Fein would not take up positions on the Policing Board until a power-sharing executive is restored.
Mr Adams said: “We are doing what we are doing because we think it is in the common good.
“We made a very genuine and sincere effort to engage with the DUP – despite the refusal of the DUP leader to meet with us in a negotiating configuration.
“We made the effort. It is over to the DUP. The issue is does Ian Paisley go to the unionist section of our people and say we are not up for power sharing?
“Does he go to them and say we are now going to have to go to plan B, the two governments will run the place, Dublin will have a greater involvement, and the assembly will not deal with issues?
“I say that in a non-belligerent way. It is a challenge to the British government and the Irish government.’’
The party leader said he thought Mr Paisley had spoken in a genuine way at St Andrews about young people having a better future.
“I look to him [Mr Paisley] to deliver on that,’’ he said, adding that there was potential for achieving an “entirely new politics, and a realignment of politics across this island’’.