The Guardian June 21, 2000


Britain tries to sabotage Irish peace again

The latest manoeuvre by the British Government to try to keep an 
imperialist lid on the Irish peace process, has been the attempted gutting 
of the Patten report on a new civilian police force for Northern 
Ireland.

Secretary of State Peter Mandelson placed before parliament a Police Bill 
that effectively tore up the Patten Report. Sinn Fein President Gerry 
Adams, in launching a document detailing 75 adverse changes the Bill makes 
to the Patten Report, accused "RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary] insiders, 
securocrats and officials of the Northern Ireland Office" of having 
succeeded "in subverting the establishment of a civic policing service".

In effect the Bill, as it stands, re-writes the Patten Report from start to 
finish, giving the Secretary of State and Chief Constable enormous powers 
while downgrading the Policing Board  earning even the condemnation of 
the outgoing Board!

The Bill provoked outrage and condemnation across the political spectrum in 
both parts of Ireland, from the Irish Government, Sinn Fein, the Social 
Democratic & Labour Party, the Women's Coalition, the Alliance Party, and 
even the Catholic Church. Once again, the Unionists and the British 
Government found themselves alone and out on a limb.

Even US President Bill Clinton rebuffed Tony Blair for making endless 
concessions to the Unionists on reform of the RUC. White House officials 
explained that "to bow to Unionist demands on the RUC would be like leaving 
Alabama and Georgia under all-white cops".

Pat Docherty, Vice-President of Sinn Fein pointed out that the Good Friday 
Agreement had been voted on by the people throughout the island of Ireland, 
and that the British and Irish Governments had committed themselves to 
implementing the Patten Report in their joint statement on May 5, which led 
in turn to the IRA's most far-reaching statement to date on putting weapons 
beyond use.

"The key and the core of this", said Docherty, "is Tony Blair. The 
responsibility lies with him. He has the power and the responsibility to 
resolve this. All of Catholic and nationalist Ireland is watching the 
British Government to do the right thing."

Sinn Fein's chief whip Alex Maskey said in Belfast they will not endorse 
the Bill until they see the completed legislation. And a group of MPs led 
by former shadow Labour spokesman for Northern Ireland Kevin MacNamara is 
attempting to have the Bill sent back to the drafting stage.

MacNamara reflected widespread distrust of the RUC when he told a meeting 
at the House of Commons organised by the Friends of Ireland that the 
present Bill would result in the new police service "being asked to police 
themselves".

Campaigners are lobbying MPs and Ministers to re-draft the legislation in 
line with Patten and in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. The Labour 
Government's tactic may be to eventually end up at a half-way house between 
the Patten Report and Peter Mandelson's colonial re-write.

For their part, the campaigners intend to continue until a genuine new 
beginning is made in policing the north of Ireland, one which can sustain 
the peace process into the future. (From an article by Theo Russell in 
New Worker.)

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