“they need to figure out the answer if there is to be a chance of powersharing on March 26th”

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]

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  • Northsider

    How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    That’s what I think when I read yet another of these interminable and pointless opinion pieces which are then loyally blogged on Slugger. Why is this being described as a ‘timebommb’ – I don’t seem to understand how one throwaway personal response out of the many from SF can be construed as a timebomb. She was expressing an opinion under pressure.

    Furthermore, these writers seem to think that SF control absolutely the thought processes and actions of all in republican areas. They don’t. People in these areas have gone to the police long before SF gave it the go-ahead, and will do so now in greater numbers afterwards.

    The ridiculous hypothesis which paints a picture of SF giving the go-ahead for nationalists to join PSNI, and then urging – note that word – not leaving it up to the individual – them not to report dissidents (who only seem to be capable of killing civilians) who target members of that service is part of the media and unionist tailspin having predicted untold woe and splits for SF which failed to materialise.

  • Glensman

    ‘a group of heavily-armed “disaffected Provisionals” parading through west Belfast en route to attack the PSNI station on the Grosvenor Road’

    Seriously? Are we to think that without the eagle eyed Michelle Gildernew this could happen?

  • Overhere

    Usual nonsence and to tell the truth getting tired of this old piece of “whatif” journalism being printeted again and again.

    It is simply staggering to continually hear the same old whine from the same old crowd. Perhaps if they looked at their own communities and their weapon, policing problems instead of building senarios in their fevered imagination about the imagined enemy

  • Mick Fealty

    It may or may not be ridiculous but it is highly pertinent to agreements already made. As I think I have already mentioned on a previous thread, the ‘whatif’ scenario is simply the kind of test that any would be policy or law would need to be subjected to.

    Now it is perfectly fine to argue that in reality none of those things are likely to happen. But then again, which of us really saw the Northern Bank robbery coming? Whatever is said here, by bloggers or commenters, I suspect it is being taken seriously inside the dark mills of Peace Process™…

  • DK

    Imagine a dissident is aiming a gun at a member of the PSNI who has just joined on the advice of Sinn Fein.

    Now imagine that Michelle Gildernew is passing by at that exact moment.

    I think she should state clearly that she would throw herself in front of the bullet and, if she does not, the DUP should immediately withdraw from power-sharing.

    It’s a political timebomb waiting to happen.

  • Pete Baker

    Despite the spectular attempts to avoid the issue here, there is a very straightforward point to note.

    If a powersharing executive is to be formed on 26th March, with the ministerial pledge of office being taken, then Sinn Féin’s answer to the question posed will have to be different.

  • kensei

    “If a powersharing executive is to be formed on 26th March, with the ministerial pledge of office being taken, then Sinn Féin’s answer to the question posed will have to be different.”

    The pledge is a complete waste of time. They could of course lie through their teeth. Prove otherwise if the event remains a what if.

    To expect SF to come out with “Tout on all dissidents” in the middle of a sensitive election campaign (particularly in rural areas) is nuts. Of course, the people writing the op-eds and asking the questions know that, and it’s an easy way to stir up a bit of controversy.

    Reservations about the police within Nationalism, including within SF, are not going to disappear overnight and it will be a process.

  • Yoda

    Well, it wouldn’t be the first time an oath has been taken in a half-hearted manner…

    And, if that (unsurprisingly) turns out to be not good enough for the DUP, so what?

    Again, I don’t see the issue.

    Same old, same old.

  • DK

    I heard that SNP MPs get around the parliamentary oath by prefixing it with a preamble on the spot along the lines of “I will no say an oath that I do not believe in and do not accept, the oath is …”

    Maybe Sinn Fein ministers could do the same.

  • Ian

    Pete:

    “Despite the spectular attempts to avoid the issue here, there is a very straightforward point to note.

    If a powersharing executive is to be formed on 26th March, with the ministerial pledge of office being taken, then Sinn Féin’s answer to the question posed will have to be different.”

    You missed out the other straightforward point, that prospective SF Ministers won’t have to take the pledge of office until the DUP have nominated to the position of First Minister (or Deputy FM).

    So the DUP are the ones facing the decision or whether to either breach St Andrews by refusing to nominate, or go ahead and nominate in order to find out whether or not SF abide by the pledge they take.

  • AvalonSunset

    “Reservations about the police within Nationalism, including within SF, are not going to disappear overnight and it will be a process.”

    If SF need a process to overcome reservations about supporting the PSNI is it so hard to believe that the DUP may need a similar process to overcome the reservations about the spokesmen for the terrorists that have bomb, maimed and injured the unionist and nationalist populations of Northern Ireland for 35 years? Trust has to be earned on both sides, and once broken the period for the rebuild the next time will be significantly longer. I was starting to think that the IRA had finally called an end when Canary Wharf blew it away. I was starting to get to the point where I though SF were approaching a democratic party when the northern bank raid took place and blew it again. It will take me and quite a few other unionists longer each time to believe SFs promnises if they keep screwing up.

  • Briso

    Marty will take the pledge. Story over.