The TUV has issued an open question to unionism at large: do you have faith in the Policing Board?
It follows a report in the News Letter on Saturday, which illustrated little appetite among any of the Executive parties to take action over Sinn Fein’s ongoing presence on the board, which was set up to oversee the work of the PSNI.
The TUV pointed out that, during a debate on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill in June 2000, Peter Robinson had said: “It will be of no comfort to the community in Northern Ireland that the Secretary of State is prepared to proceed with a Bill that will bring the Provisional IRA a role in policing in Northern Ireland even though they are still active in terrorism there.”
He added: “Future generations will rise up and curse the name of the Secretary of State” for having introduced such a bill.
An intelligence assessment last week revealed that the IRA Army Council still exists and that PIRA members believe it oversees the work of Sinn Fein.
It added that the PIRA leadership “remains committed to the peace process”.
TUV Castlereagh councillor Andrew Girvin said the idea of IRA members – past or present – overseeing the work of the police remains “a live issue”, 15 years after Mr Robinson’s speech.
He said: “The public of Northern Ireland have been fed a fiction for years that the IRA had gone away and that republicans had [embraced] democratic politics.
“All of that was blown out of the water by last week’s report.”
When asked last week if the DUP believes Sinn Fein can remain on the Policing Board after the report, 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.”
The UUP 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.”
Neither party – or SDLP or Alliance – proposed any specific action over Sinn Fein’s board presence.