The last time Sinn Féin wheeled out little known placeman, and non-public representative, Declan Kearney, in November 2009, the party was trying desperately to raise the stakes over the devolution of policing and justice powers - while muttering about “the NIO spooks and PSNI’s political detectives“. What he’s doing out of his box again is anyone’s guess… ANYhoo, here’s the script this time
Sinn Fein’s support for democratically accountable policing is unambiguous, but it is not unconditional. We have repeatedly said that our Party will face down the old guard political detectives who have worked against the peace process.
Contrary to insinuations from other senior PSNI officers, Sinn Féin has no “psychological transition” to make. We have faced down attempts to intimidate DPP meetings; condemned apolitical, militarist violence against police officers; and, ensured the Assembly Justice Committee works. We will not be derailed by anyone.
All this coincides with a migration of former Northern Ireland Office figures into the new Department of Justice (DOJ). Defective prisons policy, the Police Ombudsman debacle, and long-standing efforts to hollow out Patten’s recommendations reflect a mindset synonymous with the old system.
Of course, some of this was inevitable. Old reactionaries rarely go away. They regroup and retrench. That’s the reality of policing in post conflict Ireland.
But the change agenda – in the context of the all-Ireland political institutions – is irreversible. The ‘dark side’ is not in control. MI5 will not succeed in remilitarizing the north. Change is in the ascendancy.
Sinn Fein will resolutely drive, and defend the change agenda against all its opponents – not least those in the PSNI, or their retired colleagues, now in the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA), intent on vindictively targeting republicans to massage bruised egos from a past conflict.
The republicans’ call to the Chief Constable to start living in the real world rings hollow.
In the real world of Northern Ireland there is a viable and on-going threat from dissident republicans and Mr Baggott might well suggest that mainstream republicans could do more to bring the wilder elements to heel. He might also, with some justification, feel that the language used by republicans could easily be misinterpreted as a weakening of support for policing – we are assured that it is not – and that the comment would have been better left unsaid, at least publicly.