By Susan Falvella-Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Northern Ireland’s Secretary of Education and chief Sinn Féin negotiator, Martin McGuinness, warned the White House on Monday that the issue of police reform in Northern Ireland’s had the potential to destabilize the political situation there.
McGuinness met with President Clinton’s point man on Northern Ireland, Jim Steinberg of the National Security Council, for an hour.
"McGuinness focused on policing and made the point repeatedly that the [police] bill in parliament does not go far enough," said White House spokesman Michael Hammer.
White House officials stressed the importance of the "normal" political process in place in Northern Ireland now that the Assembly is again up and running.
McGuinness said it was his and Sinn Féin’s mission to ensure that the future police force of Northern Ireland can also be considered "normal" enough for Catholics to be able to join its ranks.
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After the meeting, McGuinness told reporters: "It is totally unacceptable that the British government has moved to dilute the Patten proposals which promised a new approach to policing."
Against the backdrop of the McGuinness visit, Rep. Chris Smith, who chairs the House Sub-committee on Human rights, has promised to hold a series of hearings on RUC reform.