Little appetite for action on SF Policing Board membership

IRA bomber-turned-politican Gerry Kelly with Catriona Ruane, two of the Sinn Fein Policing Board members
IRA bomber-turned-politican Gerry Kelly with Catriona Ruane, two of the Sinn Fein Policing Board members

There is little indication that any of the main Executive parties are set to take action over Sinn Fein’s presence on the Policing Board, following the assessment that the IRA Army Council still exists.

The News Letter raised the issue with the DUP, UUP, Alliance, SDLP, in the wake of the publication publication of an intelligence report on Monday into the status of the Province’s paramilitary factions.

The News Letter had asked each of them: “Given the revelations in the recent security assessment into paramilitary activity, do you believe Sinn Fein can remain on the Policing Board?”

The political members are appointed on the basis of the numbers of MLAs each party has, while the remaining independent members are appointed by the justice minister. Altogether, they oversee the work of the PSNI.

The UUP had walked out of government with Sinn Fein in August over claims of ongoing IRA activity, and the DUP undertook a partial boycott of Stormont itself .

DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig had said: “The independent report was clear in its assessment that the leadership of Sinn Fein was committed solely to peaceful and democratic means.

“The challenge for Sinn Fein is to work with the other parties in ending all paramilitary or criminal activity and ensuring that the structures of paramilitary organisations are dismantled.

“If there is not a successful outcome to the talks on these issues then there will not be a successful platform for devolution to move forward.”

Ulster Unionist Policing Board member, Ross Hussey said: “The answer to that lies in the bigger question – is Sinn Fein going to get real about the IRA and the role of the Army Council? This has implications for more than the Policing Board.”

Trevor Lunn, Alliance responded: “Whilst there is no need for the Provisional Army Council to exist and it doing so leads to challenges for Sinn Fein, the party sits on the Policing Board due to having a mandate to do so.”

The SDLP’s deputy leader Dolores Kelly – herself a member of the Policing Board – had told the News Letter on Wednesday night that she did not believe Sinn Fein should be removed from the board, adding that the matter should be looked at in the context of the ongoing multi-party talks.

When the question was put to the party’s headquarters, it said: “What is needed, in double quick time, is a wholehearted law enforcement approach that sees criminality pursued to the four corners of Ireland and a wholehearted political endorsement that paramilitarism, in whatever form, must be gone and gone for good.

“That is the challenge of our times. It is the challenge for all parties, particularly for Sinn Fein, whose routine tired denial has plainly no credibility whatsoever.”