Alliance Party Leader, Sean Neeson, has argued that in order to secure the Agreement, it is vital that Unionists and Nationalists move beyond treating the policing debate as a zero-sum game, and suggested a package of steps that are not mutually exclusive as the basis for progress.
Sean Neeson said:
“Much of the current crisis in confidence in the Agreement is being concentrated in the debate over policing. It is now vital that parties rise above the zero-sum politics that have characterised the debate so far.”
“Alliance is clear that it is possible to find a framework for the future of policing around which the entire community can unite. Many of the reforms suggested by Unionists, Nationalists, and from Alliance plus the Liberal Democrats are not mutually exclusive. On other areas, parties should temper demands in order to serve the common interest.”
“A possible package could involve a number a number of elements. First, while it is appropriate to change the name of the police service, it is also right to acknowledge the continuity of the RUC in the reformed service. Patten exclusively ruled out the disbandment of the RUC; it is wrong to try to achieve it through the backdoor.”
“Second, it is the interests of society as a whole to go the extra mile on police accountability and human rights. Perceptions of transparency are paramount, the Police Board should be given greater autonomy, and officers should be expected to ‘comply’ not merely understand a Code of Conduct.”
“Third, it is better to acknowledge that 50:50 recruitment should and can only be achieved through affirmative action targets and positive leadership rather than rigid quotas. Quotas are purely cosmetic and incorrect policy approach to addressing serious imbalances in police numbers.”
“On the whole, the Patten Report is a good document, but it is not perfect. Some have sought to present it as a compromise between Unionism and Nationalism which itself cannot be compromised upon. However, this status has not been democratically legitimised through a referendum as was the case with the Agreement. It is equally wrong for Unionists to seek a deferal of policing reform and for Nationalists to treat Patten in such fundamentalist terms that they place the Agreement in jeopardy.”