Political disagreement on south Armagh policing

December 22, 2009

By Brónagh Murphy

A war of words has broken out between the SDLP and Sinn Féin regarding each party’s perceived backing of policing in south Armagh.

SDLP Assembly man, Dominic Bradley, has accused Sinn Féin of sending out ‘mixed messages’ in its attitude to policing, particularly in relation to high-profile republicans, while Sinn Féin has refuted Mr Bradley’s suggestions, insisting that its approach to policing has always been consistent.

In a statement released early last week, Dominic Bradley said a part of the Provisional movement is ‘going backwards on policing’ and accused some in the movement of thinking they are ‘untouchable.’

“On the one hand we have Councillor Pat McGinn quite properly commending the PSNI for their rapid response to the attempted ATM robbery on the Camlough Road. On the other hand we have Councillor Colman Burns attacking the PSNI at a District Policing Partnership meeting with all the same nonsense about heavy-handed tactics and anti-republican agendas that we heard during the Paul Quinn murder investigation. Now Sinn Fein members are boycotting the PSNI in the Community Safety Partnership, causing the funding to be cut off and putting the whole community at risk,” Mr Bradley said.

“For all their guff about political policing, the untouchables want policing to be even more political and stay away from them while they flaunt their wealth in the face of the hard-working, law-abiding people of south Armagh,” he continued.

“People with complaints about the police can take them through the same accountability channels as the rest of us have to use. People who abuse the accountability mechanisms for party-political purposes and people who tear down community co-operation with the police are playing the dissidents’ game for them,” he said.

In response, Sinn Féin DPP member, Colman Burns, said: “Sinn Féin took up positions on District Policing Partnerships in order to hold the PSNI to account and to ensure that our communities are not forced to endure the bad policing of the past.  In every meeting with the PSNI our approach has been consistent.

“Sinn Féin DPP members make no apology for criticising the PSNI when their actions are unacceptable. This is critical engagement. Of course when we experience good policing, it should also be acknowledged.

“The SDLP’s consistent policy has been to sit silently and accept substandard policing in our communities, this is not something which Sinn Féin is willing to do.”

Outlining several incidents, Mr Burns continued, “Recently a number of women were taken from their homes by dozens of armed officers in front of their children. They were released within hours. A few weeks ago a home in south Armagh was burgled.  The PSNI claimed that they did not have available resources to collect evidence. Despite this dozens of officers were escorting Willie Frazer to deliver a civil writ.

“Joyriders have free reign in our communities, while pensioners are afraid in their homes.

“While other DPP members sit silently, Sinn Féin will continue to fight for the policing service which our communities deserve.”