Sir Hugh ready to meet Sinn Fein for talks
Northern Ireland's most senior police officer, Sir Hugh Orde, today said he was ready for face-to-face discussions with Sinn Fein as it moves 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 time frame 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 newspaper An Phoblacht, Mr Adams said his party would "intensify our contact with the British Government".
He said: "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 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 him.
"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," Sir Hugh told the Belfast Telegraph. "All I ask is that we 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 headquarters at Palace Barracks in Holywood. However, Mr Adams said: " 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."