ALLIANCE Assembly member, Councillor Naomi Long MLA (East Belfast), has strongly criticised a briefing from Downing Street that Sinn Féin has begun to address the issue of criminality in the Republican Movement.
Cllr Long was responding to this morning’s briefing from the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman, in which he said that questions raised at Sinn Féin’s weekend ard fheis demonstrated that the party was in the “process of beginning to address those issues” of paramilitary and criminal activity which continue to create political instability.
Cllr Long stated:
“I am deeply concerned that Downing Street is clutching at straws. In doing so, it risks letting Sinn Fein off the hook far too easily.
“Downing Street needs to support the emerging political consensus around shared understandings of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, rather than seeking comfort in mealy-mouthed words from Gerry Adams.
“Sinn Fein is clearly wriggling, trying to extract itself from the hook that it is on. They want to move on as easily and as quickly as possible without having to face up to the new realities of the political process in Northern Ireland.
“There has not yet been a clear definition from Republicans as to what they regard as criminality, and there has been no clear signal given to potential witnesses in the McCartney murder case that they can freely give information to police without any fear of consequences. This is about what the McCartney family wants – justice – not what Sinn Féin says it might do. Without actions matching words, it is hard to see how Downing Street can say that Sinn Féin has even begun to address criminality.
“Minor movement from the Republican Movement has been extracted at a high cost, as a grieving family was forced to live out the pain of their bereavement in the public eye to achieve it. They have been forced to campaign for what is their right to justice under the law, and credit should go to the McCartney family for progress, not Sinn Féin.
“It seems that the Government is grabbing hold of any mere hint of progress. It risks sending out the signal that the democratic bar for Sinn Féin has not been set so high after all.
“Maximum pressure needs to be applied to the Republican Movement to ensure that there is a genuine end to all paramilitary and criminal activity.”
Downing Street briefing: http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page7267.asp