Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Adams, Orde upbeat after historic meeting

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde sits opposite Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Gerry Kelly in what was an historic public meeting earlier today. The talks are being viewed as a signal of republican willingness to agree policing arrangements on a conditional basis

Gerry Adams today hailed his first direct public meeting with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde as part of achieving a genuine "new beginning" to policing.

The Sinn Fein president told Sir Hugh the last time police met representatives of his party at Stormont, in October 2002, it had led to the closure of the Assembly and eventually the murder of Denis Donaldson.

Speaking after what he called "frank and good" hour-long talks, Mr Adams said a lot of work remained before a "sustainable threshold" at which republicans felt "ownership" of policing is reached.

"There are very real live issues but you know a peace process is about getting to a destination where citizens feel a sense of ownership," the MP said.

"That also requires a sense of ownership on policing and what we have to do is to bring the PSNI up to the mark in terms of that, so that those people who are republicans can feel for the first time ever we have accountable, civic policing that they can endorse or subscribe to."

The Chief Constable said it had been a testing and challenging encounter during which the Sinn Fein delegation had asked searching questions.

Confirming he has met senior Sinn Fein representatives privately a number of times, he said if the meeting was anything to go by, Sinn Fein would " add a lot of value" if it joined up to the Policing Board.

"They ask good questions, searching questions, they would contribute to the accountability mechanism. I don't want nice conversations. I want to be pushed."

The DUP said it hoped that the meeting was a clear indication Sinn Fein is proceeding towards a definitive decision on supporting policing and the rule of law - and not prevarication.

The meeting came as the policing and justice legislation was due to have its second reading in Parliament with a meeting between DUP leader Ian Paisley and Prime Minister Tony Blair on the cards.

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