Wednesday, 2 February 2005
Northern Ireland Issues: Motion.
Tom Morrissey (Progressive Democrats)
He had to listen to a person being called from the floor as a fraternal delegate to speak to the Ard-Fheis on behalf of the prisoners of war in Castlerea Prison. At that time 12 IRA members and three INLA members were in detention there, all convicted by the Irish courts for crimes committed in the Republic, including five convicted in connection with the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. When I received this information several days ago, it was news to me that these men are prisoners of war in the Twenty-six Counties, tried, as they believe, for crimes they did not commit. This occurred during the peace process when Ministers were travelling back and forth to London, the US and Belfast. If there are prisoners of war on our island, are they still at war with the State?
If the leaders of Sinn Féin were being awarded travel points, they would have received gold cards due to the amount of air miles they have travelled in visiting Washington and London, where doors were opened and carpets rolled out for them, as they were in Leinster House for the past ten years. They were brought in from the cold yet my party must put down a Private Members' motion containing 14 points which one would have expected to have been dealt with ten years ago, before discussions took place.
I commend the Taoiseach and other Ministers on talking tough in the past two weeks and for stating that criminality is criminality and has no place in our democracy. Before we debase democracy further, as democrats, we are entitled to say what we stand for. We should not be always on the back foot, trying to live up to the standards Sinn Féin wants us to believe it upholds.
I read an article last week in my local newspaper, written by the local Sinn Féin councillor under the headline "Society deserves an effective police force". The article stated that society needs an effective police service and an effective police service needs the support of the community it serves. For this reason, it is essential there is total transparency and trust between the police service and the community. The article went on to state that what Sinn Féin wants from a police service is that there would be voluntary gardaí on the beat with gardaí. Will voluntary gardaí be representatives of the local kneecappers association? Is this what Sinn Féin understands by the phrase "community activists"? If they are involved in these local community policing boards, they also want the chief superintendent to put on the table all information he has gathered about the community in the last month and publish it for their benefit. Is this the type of democracy and police force we want? This is the same police force that has stood behind our democracy and whose members have been murdered at the hands of the IRA, yet Sinn Féin wants equal treatment. They want to accompany these people on the beat but I certainly do not agree with it. The gardaí must find it very hard when they read in their local newspapers that this is what Sinn Féin is setting out to do. Society deserves an effective police force.