Statement by Northern Bishops on the publication of the updated Implementation Plan for Policing in Northern Ireland
19 August 2001
1. As Catholic Bishops we have followed with great interest and concern and have contributed to the debate on policing. We now feel it appropriate to make the following points. We address the issue not as political leaders but as religious leaders of a community of faith based on the values of the Gospel.
2. The challenge of the Gospel, reflected in Catholic Social teaching, places the legitimate and urgent pursuit of justice within the broader context of concern for the common good and the task of reconciliation. We have continually held that the creation of a Police Service that is “professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial and free from partisan political control” is an essential part of the common good and a just demand in any society.
3. The issue of policing is only one – but a very important one – of a number of issues that still need resolution. While reservations have been expressed about certain aspects of the Updated Implementation Plan and while we share some of these reservations, we believe that given the progress made after lengthy negotiations, sufficient grounds now exist to give real hope for a new beginning in policing.
4. We believe that the time is now right for all those who sincerely want a police service that is fair, impartial and representative to grasp the opportunity that is presented and to exercise their influence to achieve such a service. Participation in the Policing Board and District Police Partnership Boards, while not occurring in ideal circumstances, is a significant means of continuing to influence policing and its future.
5. We particularly welcome the emphasis on human rights in the new policing structures. In keeping with the highest standards of human rights, young Catholics must feel totally free to choose whether or not to participate in the new Policing Service. Failure to respect that right, in any form, would be a profound contravention of their human rights.
6. Policing is a noble vocation in the service of the common good. We as Catholic Church leaders wish to underline that once again. We would hope that such service for the common good would be a significant factor in all choices made by young people.
7. Finally, we call on both Governments and all political parties to continue to act in the interests of the common good, to respect the judgment of Independent Commissions established by the Good Friday Agreement, and to be willing to work to ensure the continuation of the Institutions and processes of normalisation which will ensure a better future for all the people of Northern Ireland.
Fr Martin Clarke (087 220 8044)
Ms Brenda Drumm (087 233 7797)