Adams ban highlights police issue

  • 9 November 2005
  • test

The US government's decision to ban Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams from attending a fundraising event in New York, over the party's refusal to support the PSNI, is an illustration of the increasingly central role policing is playing in the endgame of Northern Ireland's peace process.

Gerry Adams refused to go to the US when Mitchell Reiss, the US Special Envoy to Ireland, stuck to his decision to grant Adams a visa but ban him from fundraising.

However despite the ban a $500,000 fundraiser went ahead in America without Adams' presence.

Although the decision was announced by the Department of State, there is a suspicion that the ban originated with the Homeland Security Department, which adopts a paranoid approach to American security, post 9-11.

Gerry Adams described the ban as "amateurish" and said it would have no bearing on his party's impending decision to endorse the PSNI.

"The British government have made commitments in public which they must honour, in regard to policing," he said. "Of course Sinn Féin wants to be part of the new policing dispensation, and we have said that in the public arena many times."

The decision was welcomed by Ian Paisley's DUP, who urged the US government to continue a "hard-line, no nonsense stance against Sinn Féin".

Policing is now the most controversial issue facing the peace process. While Sinn Féin accepts that it will have to endorse the PSNI at some point, the party is insisting that it sees the "small print" of the expected policing reforms before it makes a public announcement. The SDLP and Irish government have long since endorsed the PSNI.

Policing has always been central to Northern Ireland's political problems, with nationalists regarding the police as a Protestant force, a view traditionally supported by Protestants also. The Patten reforms, introduced as part of the Good Friday Agreement, were designed to redress that imbalance and encourage more Catholics to join the force, which until relatively recently was 93 per cent Protestant.

The US ban comes as a surprise to republicans given the recent decommissioning of IRA weapons and the official standing-down of the organisation. The British Government is also content with Sinn Féin's progress in the policing arena, and expects significant progress by next Spring at the latest.