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Chief constable: Sinn Féin committed to peace

Chief Constable George Hamilton attending 'Uncomfortable Conversations' at Clooney Hall in Derry, with Sinn Féin national chairman Declan Kearney. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

CHIEF Constable George Hamilton has reiterated his support for Sinn Féin's commitment to the peace process despite the involvement of Provisional IRA members in the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

In his first comments since the Ulster Unionist Party withdrew from the Executive yesterday over the murder, Mr Hamilton said he believed the "bone fides" of the Sinn Féin leadership in their rejection of violence.

The chief constable was taking part in an "Uncomfortable Conversations" panel debate along with Sinn Féin chairman, Declan Kearney. Other participants included Alan McBride, whose wife Sharon died in the 1993 Shankill bombing, and former Victims' Commissioner, Patricia McBride.

Mr Hamilton said the past week had been a difficult one for the police.

"We made public our line of inquiry that members of the Provisional IRA were believed by us to be involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan," he said.

"We accept that our assertion of the continued existence of the Provisional IRA was contested even though we assess its purpose has changed so that its primary focus of this organisation, we say, although it continues to exist is one we believe is there to promote and ensure a peaceful political republican agenda.

"…I accept the bone fides of the Sinn Féin leadership regarding their rejection of violence and their commitment to the peace process and I accept completely their assurance that they want to support us the police service in bringing those responsible for serious crime, like the murder of Mr McGuigan, to justice," he said.

The chief constable repeated his acceptance of Sinn Féin's bone fides on several occasions during the debate.

Mr Kearney acknowledged the pain caused by the troubles but said there could be no hierarchy of victims. He said reconciliation must be at the heart of any move forward.

In response to a question by the chief constable, Mr Kearney said Sinn Féin accepted the PSNI leadership was not involved in political policing although he believed MI5 was still active in the north.

In response to a suggestion by former Policing Board vice chairman Denis Bradley that direct rule might be a help in the north, Mr Kearney said it was now time for further negotiations, with the British and Irish governments participating on an equal basis with the north's political parties.

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