Durkan: Sinn Fein agenda setting clock back on policing…

If you have already bought the Irish News today, you’ll have seen Mark Durkan’s first direct pitch on his party’s position on policing over the last five years. It notes Sinn Fein’s lack of support for the Ombudsman’s Office, and their proposals to push intelligence gathering powers out of the reach of her office in future. In other words no one with any such future a claim could have it investigated. It also claims that his party used its position inside the Policing Board to get rid of Ronnie Flanagan.

Like the whole community, I am angered by the revelations in the Police Ombudsman’s report proving collusion. While we all knew there was collusion, it is still shocking to read how the state cynically funded a serial killer.

Because the SDLP was determined to expose collusion, we insisted that the Police Ombudsman have the power to investigate the past. Her report proves that she is using those powers. Her report proves the power of the new policing institutions.

This weekend Sinn Féin debates whether to join those new policing institutions. It is an important decision and a difficult one. We know – we took the same decision five years ago. But accepting policing now no longer carries big risks. Because the SDLP has already done the heavy lifting.

Against the wishes of Tony Blair and John Reid, we made sure that the Policing Board showed Ronnie Flanagan the door. Against the wishes of Tony Blair and John Reid, we ensured that the Policing Board appointed Hugh Orde – and not a policeman from the old RUC order.

Despite much opposition from unionist politicians, we have already ensured that 86% of Patten has been implemented in just five years of Patten’s ten year programme of change. As the independent Oversight Commissioner found, the new policing institutions have done what was asked of them.

Now Sinn Féin need to do what Patten asked of them too. They need to sign on for policing.

Simply refusing to accept policing until the DUP agrees to the devolution of justice leaves Ian Paisley deciding how and when nationalists are to be protected against crime. We all need policing no matter what Ian Paisley says.

At the same time, Sinn Féin need to be honest with nationalists – and their own supporters. There hasn’t been a new breakthrough on plastic bullets. We still need a total ban on these weapons.
That’s something that the SDLP has always voted for on the Policing Board, unlike Sinn Fein who passed their seats to unionists who supported these lethal weapons.

And Tony Blair’s statement on MI5 this month isn’t “a very major step” towards getting MI5 out of Ireland as Sinn Féin claims.

In fact, Sinn Féin’s approach is allowing the British Government to set the clock back on Patten. And the truth is that Tony Blair wants MI5 to take primacy over intelligence policing in the North and he wants to prevent Nuala O’Loan investigating what they get up to.

Dealing with these issues are real challenges – but by coming on board with the SDLP they can be turned around. And, above all, we need to work together on a positive policing agenda so that old people are safe in their homes, young women are safe on the streets and young men are safe on our roads.

This week’s announcement of unprecedented Irish Government investment into the North gives us a glimpse of what working in partnership on this island can deliver. So let’s get direct rule ended.
Let’s get the Agreement working – and get working together on jobs, health and poverty. All parties signing up to policing is vital to bring this about.

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

  • Pretty much says it all

  • Pat Mc larnon

    The Policing Board has the powers to instigate inquiries into police bahaviour. Can anyone from the SDLP tell us how many times the SDLP asked the Policing Board to begin such an inquiry?

    For example when the details of 400 nationalists were stolen from Castlereagh in April 2004 a senior PSNI officer assured Alex Attwood that the details were not in the hands of unionist paramilitaries and that they were probably taken for ‘research purposes’.
    Just before Xmas 2005 the PSNI traipsed around the homes of those on the list telling them that the details stolen were in fact in the hands of unionist paramilitaries.
    What was the response of Alex Attwood? Did he just accept the original lies of a senior PSNI official? Did he ask the policing board to hold an inquiry into the theft and subsequent conspiracy of silence?

  • Quaysider

    So you believe SF should have joined the policing board straight away then, Pat?
    If not, why not?

  • Pat-

    So why didn’t SF join the Policing Board and do all that you demand? Why are you castigating the SDLP when SF didn’t even bother to turn up? Strange that.

  • SDLP to the core

    Looks like the SDLP out-thought the Shinners and hit the Irish News while the Shinners were planning to have a splash in the Telegraph.

    The Shinners give the impression that just about anybody can out-think and out-negotiate them, why should anyone even consider voting let alone joining a party so enept at everything they do.

  • Pat Mc larnon

    I posed a series of questions and as yet no one cares to answer why the SDLP sat on their hands on the Policing Board.
    Again will any SDLP supporter tell us how many inquiries the SDLP instigated (or even attempted to instigate) during their 5 yrs on the Policing board? It is a very simple question.
    Even though as they now admit there was certainly a body of cases for them to work on.

  • Pat-

    Why are you querying the record of a party that joined the board to try and make a difference but was hindered by the fact that the other nationalist seats were handed to the unionists thanks to SF, but ignoring the fact that SF didn’t even bother to turn up? It’s easy to criticise when you don’t have a record of your own to defend. If you’re going to criticise, then all things should be equal- therefore all your criticisms and questions should equally be levelled at SF.

  • Mick Fealty

    A direct answer will do lads.

    That’s a better question than Martin asked this morning on MU though Pat. You should offer your services, and keep him on the straight and narrow!! 😉

  • Pat Mc larnon

    El Mat,

    a simple question either answer it or state you are not prepared to answer it. Could it be that while the actual events of collusion were taking place the SDLP were urging nationalists to co-operate with the RUC (SB icluded)? Are the SDLP a bit embarrassed that they urged the nationalist community to support an organisation that was conspiring against them?

  • Jocky

    Which i sthe fundamental flaw in SF position, they are a part of opposition, all talk, and not much else. Criticise others while taking no responsibility themselves. It’s easy to be blameless when you don’t do anything. That’s really inspiring, stand on the side-lines and carp about how crap everyone else is.

    And this from a supporter of a party who had rubber stamped the OTR bill!

    The sheer bare faced cheek of it.

  • Pat Mc larnon


    I try my best, but what can you do with the likes of him?


    I find it very amusing to see the provos wriggle around trying to find some ground on whih to attack the SDLP on policing. McGuinness was a disgrace this morning.

    This ad was a great stroke by the stoops and a nice timely reminder of SF’s flip flopping.

  • kensei

    “I find it very amusing to see the provos wriggle around trying to find some ground on whih to attack the SDLP on policing. ”

    They quite clearly jumped too early, weakening the negotiating position of Nationalism meaning it is now a struggle to get transfer of powers, and haven’t actually done anything on the policing boards which we can only assume they joined for appearances sake.

    Come on now, get real like.

  • Gerry & the peacemakers

    The talks at weston park were all about getting the SDLP on the policing bandwagon and they feel hook line and sinker – they should have had the strength to reject this until Patten was a reality not a promise.

    What is the point of the SDLP now? Hume put country before party and we all owe him a debt but what have they delivered in the last 5 years? They are the old generation and have outlived their usefulness.

  • brendan,belfast

    For the sake of debate Pat, I will assume your question is genuine. I don’t know the answer to the question how many inquiries did the SDLP initiate, or try to initiate (how could we know that, by the way?). I would assume that since SF didn’t take up their seats, that the unionist parties had a built in majority, so any attempts they would have made would have been stifled. so well done SF.

    i think even SF now accept that the Ombudsman has a crucial role to play (despite decrying her office when it was established). It is a political and policing fact that without the SDLP making the leap 5 years ago there would have been no investigation into Mount Vernon, Omagh or countless others.

    That’s the answer.

  • Observer

    “I don’t know the answer to the question how many inquiries did the SDLP initiate, or try to initiate (how could we know that, by the way?).”

    Some of our SDLP friends could tell us. No?

  • New Yorker

    When posters say SDLP jumped too early on the issue, if they had waited, what else of substance would have been gained?

  • DMCM

    I know that several inquiries have been made by the SDLP on the Policing Board which include, collusion, informants, special branch, MI5 involvement the list is endless.
    The best person to get a full list from would be any of the SDLP elected members on the Policing Board.

  • DMCM

    I think that as far as policing is concerned, that the FULL iceberg should be revealed rather than just the tip of it. Lets see a full report on all the shady things that happened.
    Lets see who was on the Special Branch payroll. Loyalist and Republican. Let Durkan call out all their names at Westminster. It’ll probably take him a while.
    I am sure there are many Republican figureheads worried about what will be revealed.
    Lets see the truth.

  • 21stcenturyirishman

    and lets hope that the provos do the right thing tomorrow. its a pity that when they made the move after all this time it was because the DUP made them, andnot the needs of their own people. but thats SF politics for you.

  • Pat Mc larnon

    No answers yet from the SDLP members who can usually be found multiple posting etc.

    Ask them one simple question and the useless bastards vanish like snow off a ditch. Leaders of the community, aye right.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah Pat, now that is a big can of worms you really don’t want to open…

  • Pat Mc larnon


    all the cans of worms on the earth can be opened as far as I am concerned.

  • dublinsfsupporter

    Just blatant electioneering from a SDLP that faces a real loss of seats to Sinn Féin at the forthcoming election. Desperation. Quite sad.

  • brendan,belfast

    Blatant electioneering.imagine that, and them a political party. you really are a halfwit.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Come on El Mat, you have to admit that this is a very badly hidden effort by Durkan trying to sound tough prior to the election. That remark about Ronnie Flanagan is off the wall. I haven’t heard a peep said about Ronnie Flanagan prior to this latest Ombudsman report. All of a sudden the SDLP have picked him out as a whipping boy.

    The last paragraph is a call to get things up and running. It’s pretty frickin’ obvious that the DUP are blocking the door here. Why isn’t Durkan’s article directed at them ? Oh, that’s right. Durkan isn’t concerned with trying to get the prod vote.

  • Levitas

    I don’t think the SDLP have much to be proud of with regards to policing, didnt they participate in the policing boards before Patton was anywhere near completion…Apart from that does’nt Mark Durkan have something of the aura of a hollow man about him, as some old fashioned commentators would have said he just lacks ‘bottom’.

  • Chris Donnelly

    If you have already bought the Irish News today, you’ll have seen Mark Durkan’s first direct pitch on his party’s position on policing over the last five years.


    You forgot to mention that this advert was placed in the paper as a frantic attempt by Durkan and the SDLP to compensate for the fact that Sinn Fein distributed a four page brochure free with the Irish News on the same day.

  • brendan,belfast

    i didn’t get the SF supplement. my newsagent must be a securocrat………

  • DMCM

    I wonder where Sinn Fein get their money to be able to afford a coloured 4 page brochure in the Irish news? And no doubt they will have posters on every lamp post in the north in the next election (these cost a minimum of ten pound each)
    I cannot believe the posts here by Sinn Fein supporters. Only 2 weeks ago they were attacking the SDLP position on policing. Now they are all signing up to the same thing.
    Adams must be a happy man to be preaching to sheep. Whatever he says goes.
    Sinn Fein must acknowledge that they have had to change their principles to such an extent over the last 10 years. Be careful giving the SDLP such a hard time because you are becoming them!
    When I weigh up both these parties it seems that Sinn Fein are the party changing their principles and the SDLP are sticking strongly by theirs.

  • lib2016


    You too have noticed that Sinn Fein and the SDLP are competing for the centre vote. Makes a bit of a contrast with their rivals on the unionist side of the house, don’t you think?