Senators Edward Kennedy and Christopher Dodd added their voices to the growing Irish-American demand that Britain implement the recommendations in the Patten Report on Policing in Northern Ireland. Both senators signed a letter to President Clinton asking him to press the issue in a July meeting with Tony Blair.
Senator Kennedy also drafted a Senate resolution calling on the British government to “fully and faithfully implement the recommendations contained in the September 9, 1999 Patten Commission on Policing.” In this letter he quoted Chris Patten, chairman of the commission, that any “cherry-picking from the report was unacceptable.”
U.S. pressure on the British government to implement the original Patten Report in its entirety is a key element of the effort to have the report retained, a point Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams drove home on a visit to the States this summer.
British officials, however, have tried to convince U.S. political and community leaders that British government changes to the bill, called the Police Bill, are the best way forward. Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Mandelson accused “some Nationalist politicians” of misrepresenting changes to the bill and he appealed to moderate Nationalists not to be swayed by the hype, which, he claimed, was created for “ulterior political purposes.”
“The sensible way forward,” Mandelson asserted, “as Patten himself and the members of his commission recommended, and which the government believes, is that we should be doing two things. First of all, acknowledging in the legislation that the RUC is not being disbanded, that it is being carried forward into the police service, but that equally, a fresh beginning does require a new name and that name is the Police Service of Northern Ireland and that is settled.”
To which Education Minister in the Assembly Executive Martin McGuinness replied tersely, “Stop bluffing and implement the Patten Report in full.”
Senior figures in Washington believe that President Clinton remains firm in his belief that the Patten Report is the best way forward on policing.
Other issues that still remain in question are police oversight, the makeup of community boards, and who has the responsibility to initiate inquiries into allegations of police misbehavior. ♦