Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen T.D.
The Government notes the publication today of the Police Bill.
Both the British and Irish Governments and the parties to the Good Friday Agreement recognised that the Good Friday Agreement "provides the opportunity for a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland". The Agreement's chapter on policing is an integral aspect of the Good Friday package which was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Ireland, North and South.
The Independent Commission on Policing, established under the Good Friday Agreement, comprehensively addressed the complete range of important and sensitive issues. The Government remains completely committed to the view that full and effective implementation of the Patten recommendations is the way in which the report's vision of an acceptable and representative police service can be delivered.
Today's publication of the Bill represents another step on the road to implementing the Patten recommendations. The Government will now have an opportunity to examine the detail of the Bill and will remain in close contact with the British Government and the pro Agreement parties. On a preliminary assessment, certain aspects of the Bill give cause for concern, because they carry the risk that the new service will not succeed in winning the level of cross-community support that will be necessary to create a new beginning. It is essential that all such issues be resolved in the context of the legislative process.
What is important now is that the Bill and the Implementation Plan, taken together, be able to deliver a police service which will be effective, representative and acceptable in every town and townland in Northern Ireland. That is the basis for progress. And it is on that basis that we wish to see the process taken forward.
A new beginning in policing, as proposed by Patten will make a decisive contribution to the peace, stability and, ultimately, the prosperity of Northern Ireland.