29/01/2007

Sinn Fein policing decision welcomed

Sunday's vote by Sinn Fein members in favour of becoming involved in policing in Northern Ireland has been broadly welcomed.

Commenting on the decision, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said: "Today's vote is the inevitable outworking of the peace process begun in the mid-nineties, requiring as it did that all parties commit to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

"The UUP has been saying for months that Sinn Fein had nowhere else to go as they had to sign up to the Pledge of Office to support law and order before joining any future Executive."

He continued: "Nonetheless today's move is a massive step change in the Republican psyche. It is an admission that the violent 'cause' has been abandoned and that Sinn Fein are prepared to support the forces of law and order in this part of the United Kingdom.

"The motion also vindicates the UUP view that politics based on the consent principle coupled with the fundamentals that my Party fought for is the only way forward. Consequently as a Party we are calling our Executive together this week to discuss our collective response to this move."

Sir Reg concluded: "My sense is that it could potentially herald the beginning of a new era if the follow through is clear, swift and unequivocal. The people of Northern Ireland want progress and they want to move on. Today's vote is a critical piece of the jigsaw in getting the much needed devolved institutions back up and running."

Northern Ireland Policing Board Chairman, Sir Desmond Rea today welcomed Sinn Fein's decision, he said: "On behalf of the Northern Ireland Policing Board I note:

The terms of the motion placed by the Ard Chomhairle before the Special Ard Fheis today; That the Ard Fheis endorsed the motion; and that the Ard Fheis also endorsed that the Ard Chomhairle is mandated to implement the motion only when the power sharing institutions are established and when the Ard Chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred.

"I welcome the decision taken today and look forward to Sinn Fein joining the Policing Board, which I trust will be sooner rather than later. Full political and community support for policing will be for the benefit of the whole community."

Sinn Fein members attended a special Ard Fheis conference in Dublin regarding the party's policy on policing.

(EF/SP)

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