Sunday, October 02, 2005


All-Ireland policing a step closer

I haven't yet commented on the news, first mentioned on Slugger and which I consider to be most welcome, regarding officers of the Gardai working alongside the PSNI in the coming weeks in Ireland's north.

I'm heartened over the fact that unionists have reacted calmly to the news, saying that co-operation between the forces is welcome if it leads to enhanced experience.

The Belfast Telegraph has reported on the details of the plans:

Members of the PSNI will also work with the Garda in the Republic, and the first swap of personnel will take place under an exchange programme that will be confined largely to non-operational posts.

A Garda superintendent will be sent north next month and will be based at the Garnerville training college in Belfast.

The senior officer will be followed by members of other ranks early in 2006. They will stay with the PSNI for up to a year.

Personnel in the exchange programme will not have policing powers and will be dressed in plain clothes. Their duties will include acting as observers, human resources and training, and community policing.

After the programme gets under way, senior officers from the two forces will then concentrate on the secondment phase, which will involve members being given full police powers and assigned to operational tasks. Officers on secondment can work with the host police force for up to three years and they will eventually be sent out on patrol on the streets of Northern Ireland and the Republic. A decision has not yet been taken on whether these officers will wear a uniform.

The changes are in line with the recommendations of the Patten Commission.

As someone who feels that an all-Ireland police force would be a great way to tackle paramilitary violence, I welcome this move and think it is tremendous for all of us on the island of Ireland.

I believe that this increased cooperation between the Gardai and the PSNI will lead to greater solidarity in the Irish war on terror and I think that, from an Irish unity standpoint, it is a welcome move as I believe that unionists can only be convinced of the benefits of unity by championing the positive ramifications of such a move. Security is important to everyone on this island and if we can provide a united front against Republican and Loyalist thugs, we all benefit.

I think an all-Ireland police force is the way forward and I feel this development is a step in the right direction. I applaud unionists for their calm and measured response to this development.

There was a time when bigotry and scaremongering would play a part in dismissing such an effort immediately but these are changed times and unionism, like nationalism, is evolving and looking to the future.

The only people who should be opposed to this move are the criminal thugs who will be targeted north and south by a united and resolute police force. And that's a good thing.


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