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Under starter's orders

(Editorial, Irelandclick.com)

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Gerry Kelly put it up to the republican constituency at Saturday's conference on policing when he indicated Sinn Féin would end its boycott of the PSNI if the remaining reforms the party demanded were achieved.

The year ahead, therefore, promises turbulent changes not only on the political front but on the policing front as well.

And, like a runner on the blocks, the nationalist community is ready for the policing challenge.

There can be no doubt, despite protestations to the contrary by Hugh Orde, that the PSNI remains beyond the Pale to the majority of nationalists. Not until Sinn Féin gives the new policing arrangements its blessing can any progress be made to close the impasse between the law-abiding nationalist population and the PSNI. The prospect of that Sinn Féin thumbs-up coming within 12 months has moved closer after Saturday's conference.

And that, as Gerry Kelly said, will "present further challenges for all activists". He could have gone further and said that it would present challenges for anyone who has a democratic bone in their body. Indeed, the countless victims of policing, not least 30-year-old mother Nora McCabe, cut down in 1981 by 'police officers' on her way from the shops, will be in the minds of readers of the Andersonstown News as they prepare to tackle this thorniest of issues.

But then, no-one said peace was going to be easy and peace without control of policing is meaningless.

Gerry Adams has rightly chided critics who try to bully Sinn Féin into signing up to policing before guarantees are received that the force will no longer be the armed wing of unionism.

The West Belfast MP has also pointed out that his constituency is not "the wild west" and in fact crime levels are below the European average.

That is true but it only tells half the story. The reality is that ordinary people are tortured by anti-social thugs and are crying out for a real police service.

The sooner Sinn Féin can say that such a service is at hand, the sooner the situation where decent people are being forced to move out of West Belfast by the actions of hoodlums can come to an end.

January 17, 2006

This article appeared first on the Irelandclick.com web site on January 16, 2006.