Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

I'm ready: Orde

PSNI chief responds to Adams' direct talks offer

Northern Ireland's most senior police officer, Hugh Orde, today said he was ready for face-to-face talks with Sinn Fein as that party moves ever closer to participation in policing.

Northern Ireland's most senior police officer, Hugh Orde, today said he was ready for face-to-face talks with Sinn Fein as that party moves ever closer to participation in policing.

In an article published today, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he was committed to trying to deal with the policing issue - and to do so " within the timeframe set out at St Andrews".

That means going to a special party conference soon but only if he gets the answers he wants on MI5 as well as a date for the transfer of policing and justice powers to local politicians.

Writing in the Sinn Fein weekly newspaper An Phoblacht, Mr Adams said his party would "intensify our contact with the British Government".

He added: "We are prepared to meet with the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde on issues that fall within his remit."

Sir Hugh has met Mr Adams and other senior Sinn Fein leaders in the past but usually in wider meetings at which the Government has also been represented.

Now, republicans are ready for more direct dialogue across a range of policing issues with the Chief Constable.

"My people have got to be able to talk to their people and at every level openly about all the issues that people are concerned about," the PSNI chief told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Policing isn't political. It is about people who need help.

"All I ask is that my people are given the opportunity to protect all communities. Don't judge us by the past. Judge us by what we do now. That's all I ask."

On the big question of MI5's future role here, he said: "National security is about international terrorism and, if people think the island of Ireland is immune from international terrorism, then they need to wise up."

Around 100 PSNI officers will be attached to the security service at its new Northern Ireland headquarters at Palace Barracks in Holywood.

However, Mr Adams insisted in his article: "There is no role for MI5 in civic policing. The PSNI cannot serve two masters. Neither can there ever again be a force within a force."

The article sets a Sinn Fein context for resolving the policing question and achieving republican support and participation. It does not guarantee a deal.

The DUP is not prepared to set a date for the transfer of policing and justice powers. But to sell policing to the Sinn Fein support base, Mr Adams argued that he needed not only a date for the devolution of policing and justice - there is currently only a target date of May 2008 in the St Andrews Agreement - but detail of how such a department would work and certainty that control had been wrested from London.

Mr Adams argued it was unreasonable to expect politicians to take responsibility for policing and justice but have no real authority over it.

"Local politicians would not agree to run the health service without authority over it," he said.

Following criticism from Secretary of State Peter Hain, Mr Adams also reiterated his willingness to sit down with the DUP.

Mr Hain urged Sinn Fein to hold its ard fheis before the Assembly elections on March 7.

He also said that comments from senior DUP figures that unionist confidence in republican involvement in policing could take a political lifetime were " unhelpful".

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