“I think it’s very helpful to see it as a criminal enterprise”

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has been speaking at a Guardian sponsored event on the fringes of the Labour Party conference – at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. He also iterated a version of his party’s “civic” policing line – “For our part Sinn Féin has sought to develop a fully civic policing service and separate out British National Security interests.” By which he means leaving the issue of “British National Security interests”, such as the continued activities of republican paramilitaries, in the hands of MI5 – where they have the expertise. Interestingly, the new Chief Constable may be moving in a different direction

The new PSNI chief constable has indicated that he plans to respond to dissident republicans in the same way as any other criminal enterprise. Warning that the threat from breakaway factions was serious, Matt Baggott said it was a huge mistake to see terrorism as isolated from criminality. “I think it’s very helpful to see it as a criminal enterprise,” he said

Of course, “those are decisions for the Chief Constable”. But don’t tread on any MI5 toes, Matt.And a reminder of the UK Government’s view of attempts “to make a distinction between civic and political policing”

11. Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): Whether it is the policy of the Government to distinguish between civic and political policing in Northern Ireland. [132693]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins): The Government’s policy is to deliver effective, impartial and accountable policing, supported by the entire community in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hands: Does the Secretary of State agree that it is not right for Sinn Fein Assembly Members to make a distinction between civic and political policing, as they appear to be doing?

Paul Goggins: Time is moving on. People may have made that distinction in the past, but it is not being made now. Sinn Fein has made an historic commitment to support policing and the rule of law, it is actively encouraging people from its communities to report criminality to the police, and in the very recent past it has indicated that its members intend to take up their positions on the Policing Board. There is no such distinction in Northern Ireland, nor should there be.