In the Irish Times, Gerry Moriarty picks up [subs req] on the comments by Michelle Gildernew, MP, on a recent edition of TalkBack – as noted here – when she responded to a question about reporting “disaffected Provisionals or even a smaller republican group with guns” to the police with – “I personally wouldn’t”. And he points to the “potential political timebomb” that such conditional support for policing represents if the parties are to meet the only deadline that currently matters.. 26th March. Updated below the foldFrom the Irish Times [subs req]
You don’t want to be flippant about such a serious issue but, say, it was a group of heavily-armed “disaffected Provisionals” parading through west Belfast en route to attack the PSNI station on the Grosvenor Road – what then? Does she report? The joke in Belfast is that she wouldn’t need to because “disaffected Provisional” informers would already have touted to the cops about the planned attack.
But there’s a potential political timebomb here. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are urging nationalists to support the PSNI, and to report ordinary crime to the police. They have also encouraged nationalists to join the PSNI.
What then if our brave band of “disaffected Provisionals” is about to attack police officers who just joined the PSNI – stationed in Grosvenor Road – on the Sinn Féin leadership’s recommendation?
Now to some that scenario may appear bordering on the surreal, but it’s not simply academic: the Continuity IRA and Real IRA view police officers as “legitimate targets” and would, if they could, attack and kill them.
During the scores of republican policing debates ahead of the Sinn Féin ardfheis to endorse the PSNI, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly almost casually swatted away such pharisaical questions, of the type posed on Talkback, with the rebuttal to the dissidents: “You’re going nowhere. Catch yourselves on. We are the only people who can truly deliver for republicanism.”
Perhaps Gildernew lacked the political savvy of Adams and McGuinness to out-manoeuvre her questioners. Nonetheless, whether or not Sinn Féin support for the PSNI is conditional remains a genuinely tricky matter for the Sinn Féin leaders and they need to figure out the answer if there is to be a chance of powersharing on March 26th.
Update Northsider, in the comments below, questions the political timebomb.. so, to clarify, if powersharing is to occur on 26th March there is the not inconsiderable matter of the Ministerial Pledge of Office
7 Pledge of office
(1) In the pledge of office set out in Schedule 4 to the 1998 Act, after paragraph (c) insert—
“(ca) to promote the interests of the whole community represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly towards the goal of a shared future;
(cb) to participate fully in the Executive Committee, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council;
(cc) to observe the joint nature of the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister;
(cd) to uphold the rule of law based as it is on the fundamental principles of fairness, impartiality and democratic accountability, including support for policing and the courts as set out in paragraph 6 of the St Andrews Agreement;”.
(2) At the end of the pledge of office set out in that Schedule insert—
“Paragraph 6 of the St Andrews Agreement says:
“We believe that the essential elements of support for law and order include endorsing fully the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the criminal justice system, actively encouraging everyone in the community to co-operate fully with the PSNI in tackling crime in all areas and actively supporting all the policing and criminal justice institutions, including the Policing Board.”” [added emphasis]