Adams opens the way for Sinn Fein to back police

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The Independent Online

Gerry Adams has taken a potentially historic step towards backing the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The Sinn Fein president has called a meeting of his national executive today to consider his proposal for a special party conference next month on policing.

The West Belfast MP said the decision to call the meeting was made after considerable progress was achieved during an intense round of negotiations over Christmas on the policing issue with the British Government. He said: "I will be proposing that the ard chomhairle [national executive] convene a special ard fheis [party conference] on the policing issue and I will put a motion to that effect.

"If the ard chomhairle agrees to that motion and others, including the two governments and the DUP leadership, respond positively, the ard fheis will go ahead in January. In the run-up to this ard fheis, there will be an intensive period of discussion within the party, which will be led by party chairperson, Mary Lou McDonald.

"In addition, Sinn Fein will engage in a series of meetings with the wider republican and nationalist community across the island, including the families of our patriot dead and victims of state murder and collusion.

"Given the history of repressive and sectarian policing in the Six Counties [Northern Ireland], I don't want to underestimate the difficulties that this issue presents for many nationalists and republicans.

"However, the achievement of a new beginning to policing, as promised in the Good Friday Agreement, would be an enormous accomplishment. And I believe that we have now reached the point of taking the next necessary step."

The resolution of the policing issue in Northern Ireland is seen as pivotal to the prospects of power sharing between unionists and nationalists returning next year.

At the end of the St Andrews talks in October, the British and Irish Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, set out a plan which would see power sharing return next March if the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists signalled a willingness to share power with Sinn Fein, and republicans signed up to supporting the Police Service of Northern Ireland.