North Cops Blow All Credibility

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Irish Voice. October 9, 2002
Editorial/ Periscope

By NiallO’Dowd

FATHER Sean McManus is a man to be reckoned with when it comes to advocating causes. His espousal of the MacBride Principles back in the 1980s caused fits for the British government and forced compliance by many huge American corporations.

He also ensured that no U.S. weapons went to the RUC at a time when that police force had one of the worst reputations in the world for shoot to kill tactics.

McManus has also been a constant watchdog in Washington on Irish affairs and has been hugely successful in setting the Irish American agenda over the past 30 years.

This week, in a letter to this newspaper, he writes, “PSNI/RUC must go will now be the call of Irish Americans.” It is a very significant statement.

McManus also wrote, “The new beginning to policing promised by Patten clearly has not happened. Rather it appears that the old, sectarian and anti-Catholic RUC never went away, you know.”

McManus, since the first IRA ceasefire in 1994, has been a hugely passionate advocate of the peace process. Despite many misgivings he has supported it to the hilt since then, and has brought many influential Irish Americans around to his point of view.

If you wanted a bellwether of where Irish America stands, McManus, a Fermanagh native, could provide it. That makes his statements this week all the more important.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) launch a storm trooper raid on Sinn Fein offices at Stormont. Huge armored carriers pull up and heavily armed police run up the stairs to the Sinn Fein office.

Is there a riot? Is there a hostage situation? No, they merely want to examine some discs and arrest the Sinn Fein official in charge of the office.

This raid occurs at a time when Loyalist violence is at record levels for the year, a Loyalist feud has resulted in several deaths and Nationalist homes are threatened nightly on the peacelines.

The PSNI have done precious little about that situation. As McManus states, it’s a little like the FBI cracking down on civil rights workers and not the Ku Klux Klan. It seems the PSNI, like the old RUC, will always take a special delight in cracking Nationalist heads and ignoring the worst offender on the other side.

The hijinks by the PSNI must also place in question the role of the young Catholics who joined the organization in good faith, at the urging of the SDLP and the Irish government.

If you want the meaning of the word pressure, it is not what David Trimble is going through, but rather what a young Catholic recruit must be feeling at the moment.

Hired on the basis of equal rights and equal protection, he may soon find himself an outcast in his own community, and worse, a target of militants, as the old RUC has resurfaced with a smilier face.

Consider too the position of the SDLP party, who agreed to join the policing board on the basis that they would have input into major decisions. The run amok behavior last week by the police, which they were obviously powerless to stop, leaves them with a huge credibility gap too.

There was also the beginning of a rapprochement with Sinn Fein and the policing board. Gerry Adams had stated that he would meet the new Chief Constable Hugh Orde, who has won praise in many quarters for his work on previous police collusion investigations in the North. We can kiss goodbye to that meeting happening any time soon.

Even handed policing is at the heart of any peace settlement. While political parties can argue points at Stormont, it is the attitude of the policeman on the street who will color the feelings of tens of thousands of ordinary citizens.

Even during the recent long hot summer, when nightly riots saw Loyalist mobs descend unobstructed on Nationalist enclaves, the tendency was still to give the fledgling police force the benefit of the doubt. It now looks like that was the same as expecting Mississippi or Alabama to end slavery by majority vote.

With the imminent collapse of the power sharing Executive, there are hard questions to be asked about the future of Northern Ireland. None is more important than who will police the police.

Irish Voice

Last updated on: Sunday, November 14, 2004