Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane must explain objections over policing appointment

Editor's Viewpoint

Sinn Fein may have signed up to support the PSNI and its members sit on the Policing Board, but the party occasionally gets the jitters on security matters. The sham fight over the appointment of Drew Harris as the new Deputy Chief Constable is a case in point.

Caitriona Ruane withdrew from the interview panel claiming the process had been compromised, but neither she nor anyone else from the party has elaborated or given any convincing explanation for her action.

While it is to be welcomed that the party yesterday accepted Mr Harris' appointment and promised to support him, it also left itself open to criticism from other parties.

They claimed that Ms Ruane's actions were in response to the arrest of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams earlier this year by police investigating the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, one of the Disappeared. Mr Harris had apparently authorised the arrest.

Denials by the party that this played any part in Ms Ruane's actions seem hollow in the absence of any alternative explanation.

At the time of Mr Adams' arrest Sinn Fein was outraged, claiming that it was political policing and that it had sent out the wrong message.

This latest episode also sends out the wrong message from the second biggest party in the power-sharing administration at Stormont and it is not helpful at a time when relationships with the other major party, the DUP, is, at best, strained.

Sinn Fein now needs to explain clearly why it regarded the selection process as compromised and why Ms Ruane believed a new process was required to protect the integrity of the Policing Board.

If it cannot then it must unequivocally withdraw the allegations and repeat its full support for the new Deputy Chief Constable.

Policing is one of the most fundamental planks of the new society being created in Northern Ireland and it should not be used as a political football by representatives of either community here, especially given the ongoing threats from dissident republicans and the continuing volatility surrounding issues such as parades.

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