If, as Danny Morrison argues, the party is still long war mode, Jim Cusick believes that neutering the detective powers of the police service has been one of the key political objectives of Sinn Fein.
He aruges that policing reforms, which have been key to Sinn Fein’s objections to concluding a definative deal, were what made the Northern Bank robbery possible:
The Sinn Fein-led campaign against this so-called collusion received masses of media exposure, creating a situation where intelligence-gathering became synonymous in many people’s minds with complicity in loyalist murder and terrorism. But intelligence-driven undercover policing is the most effective tool any police force has in combating organised crime.
Almost unbelieveably, he alleges:
This situation was virtually achieved about five months ago, when a direction was apparently given that the PSNI could no longer use informants with criminal records. This effectively meant the IRA had carte blanche to set up the operation to carry out the biggest bank heist in history.
He also alleges that equality concessions have de facto led to:
The ability to place moles in key positions, which was seen in the operation of the IRA spy ring at Stormont and the St Patrick’s Day break-in at the Special Branch headquarters in 2000, arose from the introduction of “equality” laws which forbade the PSNI from carrying out security vetting on people applying for sensitive jobs. Previously, prospective employees were checked to ensure they had no links with terrorist groups.
From the IRA’s point of view, these were the two key concessions – supported by the Irish Government and agreed by the British – in the deal to underwrite the 1997 IRA ceasefire. A further unwritten concession was that the IRA could continue in existence and become involved in organised crime, so long as it did not murder police or soldiers or carry on its bombing campaign.
He argues that the concessions were another case of talking at cross purposes that has characterised much of the polemic since 1998:
The concessions granted by both governments were based on the belief that Sinn Fein and the IRA were intent on pursuing a purely democratic agenda, and that the IRA would somehow agree to disband. This “historic” prospect was trumpeted loudly in the run-up to the talks that finally collapsed in Belfast shortly before last Christmas.