IRA policing more effective than PSNI?

On the BBC’s Radio Five Live phone in programme yesterday, one respondent called in from South Armagh and argued quite plausibly that although he was not a Sinn Fein voter, he’d seen a pattern of disorder moving in in areas where the local IRA had ceded policing control to the PSNI (temporary sound file, about 1/2 hour in). Is this one reason why nationalists are reluctant to accept the PSNI as their local police force?

  • slug9987

    Depends on how zero-toerance society wants police to be. Normal policing has constraints that the IRA doesn’t.

  • fair_deal

    Where in south Armagh have the IRA ceded policing to the PSNI?

  • Mick Fealty

    He doesn’t say.

  • Circles

    I think the main reason is a lack of trust.

    Despite the 50/50 recruitment drive, the name change, the badge change, making the dull grey jeeps look like a tank in a clowns costume, etc. the PSNI have failed to win the trust of a large part of the nationalist population. Most of the changes are seen as purely cosmetic and not substantial.

    The policing issue goes a lot further than the police board and who is on it. Its a community issue, and communities need to have a police force they identify with, and who identifies with them. Ownership of the police force and the rule of law and justice is central to this, and many nationalists have absolutely no feeling of ownership of the judicial process.

  • fair_deal

    Is it the nationalist community or individual members of the republican movement? Is the following scenario outlandish?

    You are Sean Provo sitting in your little republican area. Down through the years, you have been involved in a series of punishment attacks against people who still live in your area. Some of these individuals may be violent thugs. Others may have been falsely accused and resentful of the punishment they recieved. A significant proportion of both would like to get revenge. The continued existence of the IRA and its willingness to act violently is your central means of protection.

    Through your involvement in the IRA you have also been involved in a series of attacks on the police. You realise how much the IRA was able to do without the police making you or others amenable to the law. You understand your community has a multi-generational culture of not talking to the police.

    Now Mr Gerry Shinner arrives at your door to talk to you about the IRA going away and working with the police. You look around at your house, your family and children and possibly your car sitting outside as it is explained to you that through a few SF reps on Policing Partnerships and Policing Boards a dawn on policing will arrive. Would you believe it? Would you feel safe?

    This I believe is the circle that the Shinners have been unable to square within the republican movement.

  • Circles

    Fair_deal,
    I would say your scenario may on an indivdual level be applicable – but that doesn’t address the problem of trust and confidence in the PSNI, and the lack of acceptance in nationalist areas.

    IMO, Sinn Fein can’t really encourage nationalists to accept the PSNI even if they tried, and its a circle they cannot square by themselves. Their position is formed to a large extent by the community they come from. It is the actions of the PSNI (and not the words, or symbols) that can do this (just like it was the actions of the IRA that have let people draw their conclusions regarding their intentions).

  • An Bearnach

    Fair deal gets it about right on South Armagh, but he misses a few points. The Provos never eradicated petty crime, they just minimised its impact on their own supporters. The Jonesborough area in particular has been plagued by break-ins and joyriders and nothing was done except under extreme community pressure, because some of those responsible had ‘connections’. The Provos are generally quite prepared to let the PSNI in where there is no political gain to be had by doing the job themselves. They have done absolutely nothing about the open sales of extasy at certain local hostelries where they themselves do doormen, and it is widely believed they are partaking in a licensing arrangement with the dealers.

  • fair_deal

    Circles

    “actions of the PSNI” Please define?

  • Circles

    By action Fair_deal I mean behaviour / conduct.

    So that sentence should read “it is the behaviour / conduct of the PSNI that can [address the problem of trust and confidence in the nationalist community]”

  • fair_deal

    Circles

    Sorry maybe didn’t make myself clear enough, define possible wasn’t the best choice of word. Please exemplify actions/behaviour/conduct?

  • Circles

    I can identify none Fair_deal – and that is exactly the problem.

    There has been no major shift in the perception of policing in nationalist areas despite the changes that have been made.

    There is still a need for a new start to policing where everyone can feel that it is their police force, and not just a case (in nationalist areas at least) of being policed by an outside body.

  • Circles

    Sorry just re-read that post and would like to clarify.
    I can identify no change in behaviour or conduct of the PSNI – which has resulted in the perception of policing itself not changing.

  • fair_deal

    “There has been no major shift in the perception of policing in nationalist areas despite the changes that have been made.” “I can identify no change in behaviour or conduct of the PSNI – which has resulted in the perception of policing itself not changing.”

    The PSNI has undergone a number of changes and some adaption in behaviour and conduct but these changes have not impacted upon the perception of policing within nationalist communities. Is that a fair summation?

    As the PSNI has faced up to change, does the initiative not lie with nationalists to challenge their own perceptions?

  • Dec

    fair_deal

    You seem to imply that by facing up to change, as you put it, the PSNI has completely reformed. To Nationalist (and not just Republican) minds that isn’t the case. The image of dozens of riot-clad PSNI officers removing a Windows operating disc from SF offices in Stormont and last years events at Ardoyne shops left an indelible image for many. For Nationalists to challenge their own perceptions they need evidence.

  • Circles

    A little bit utopian there Fair_deal to expect a community by itself to challenge its own perceptions.

    Are you suggesting that nationalists should say “looks the same as the old version, acts the same as the old version, but that badge is a little different, the cars are a little friendlier looking. OK then lets accept them”.

    IMO that is an unrealistic expectation. It is (to use the cliché) very much about hearts and minds that have to be one. Its not such a clear a process of give and take as you have in negotiations – people have to first be convinced they can trust them, that the police are there to protect the community.

    This trusr has to be built up by the police.

  • mickhall

    It is foolish to believe the people in areas like South Armagh, refuse to recognise the PSNI because of the PIRA and I would guess no amount of persuasion by Gerry Adams will make them do otherwise. The reason the PSNI is not recognised in South Armagh is not rocket science, but because it is a British Police force and thus not seen as legitimate and in all probability never will be. The only way for this to be overcome, in the short term at least, is for considerable over lap between the ROI and PSNI forces in these areas, even down to joint patrols. Now IM sure Unionists will say never to my suggestion, but if they truly want the rule of law to run in these areas, then it is time they too made some concessions. After all they are quite happy to work with the Garda Siochana, if they are telling us that Gerry Adams new about the Northern Bank Heist, which compared to extending the writ of the rule of law and order is small beer.

  • fair_deal

    Dec

    “The image of dozens of riot-clad PSNI officers removing a Windows operating disc from SF offices in Stormont and last years events at Ardoyne shops left an indelible image for many.”

    1. This logic implies the PSNI are not to investigate or enforce the law if nationalists are unhappy with who is being arrested or when they enforce a legal decision.

    This could be viewed as a demand for politically biased policing? One of the first criticisms levelled at the RUC about its relationship with the Unionist community.

    Circles

    “looks the same as the old version, acts the same as the old version, but that badge is a little different, the cars are a little friendlier looking. OK then lets accept them”.

    1. Your earlier comments seemed to imply a greater degree of change in the PSNI than you now describe.
    2. Change is a two way process. The implication of the comment is that the nationalist community sits back does nothing and waits for everyone else to change. This is not a recipe for a successful process of change nor would it result in a society that all feel at ease within.

    Mickhall

    1. The Northern bank robbery was an international crime. Thus co-operation between police forces of different jurisdictions is perfectly reasonable.
    2. The principle of consent has consequences, one of which is a ‘british’ police force.

  • Dec

    fair_deal

    “This could be viewed as a demand for politically biased policing.”

    No, it’s objecting to politically-biased policing which was what that raid was all about. You’re really missing the point here.

  • fair_deal

    Dec

    1. I didn’t argue about the example I highlighted the logic.
    2. I think you have exemplified the closed nature of nationalist perceptions on policing that Circles alluded to earlier. If the PSNI arrests a republican for a crime it MUST be polticially motivated the possibility.

  • mickhall

    2. The principle of consent has consequences, one of which is a ‘british’ police force.

    Posted by: fair_deal

    fair deal,

    So that is it, we are back to not an inch, only republicans/nationalist have to make concessions over policing. We do not need sharp words or lectures from unionism over the police, but ideas and yes concessions from unionism. You clearly dont feel any of these are necessary just the odd blunt instrument will do for you.

  • fair_deal

    Mickhall

    “So that is it, we are back to not an inch, only republicans/nationalist have to make concessions over policing. We do not need sharp words or lectures from unionism over the police, but ideas and yes concessions from unionism. You clearly dont feel any of these are necessary just the odd blunt instrument will do for you.”

    If I remember Patten correctly the RUC was subject to approximatley over 150 changes. Far from not a inch.

    Perhaps you could list for me the 150 changes on the republican position on policing?

    If the process of change is about creating an agreed society fair enough. If it is about everyone else changing to allow a republican nirvana in Northern Ireland then personally I wont be buying in.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    The police are hostages to their own past. Unfortunate for them, but a fact none the less. The whole issue of identifying and taking action against those police officers who were involved in collusion, torture and murder has never been properly addressed. There is no doubt that many are still involved in policing today.

    The talk of intimidation in areas like the Short Strand is a convenient get out clause for those who have never even recognised there were problems with the RUC.

  • New Yorker

    I recall speaking to older people in South Armagh many years ago and they indicated that the old RIC in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries was accepted by the community. Does anyone know if that is true? And, can anyone explain why that was?

  • New Yorker

    No one has addressed the post above about the Jonesborough area where the point is made that the Provos are not conducting community policing but protecting those criminals with ‘connections’ – seems like a pattern that was exposed in the McCartney murder.

  • cg

    Fair deal

    Your analysis shows a complete lack of understanding of people from South Armagh.

    An Bearnach

    “The Jonesborough area in particular has been plagued by break-ins and joyriders and nothing was done except under extreme community pressure, because some of those responsible had ‘connections'”

    Absolute rubbish, who exactly are you speaking about when you claim “had connections”

    You obviously don’t have any real knowledge of the situation.

    Mickhall

    “The reason the PSNI is not recognised in South Armagh is not rocket science, but because it is a British Police force and thus not seen as legitimate and in all probability never will be”

    Mick you have it 110%, that is exactly why the ruc/psni is not accepted in South Armagh.

    Let’s not forget that only 3% of crime was solved in the Newry and Mourne area last year.

    Once again New Yorker, our resident absentee landlord shows absolutely no knowledge or understanding of South Armagh.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris, it would be more effective if you would answer NY’s question. You don’t have to agree with him! It’s just ‘man and ball’ and that sort of thing. 🙂

    “The reason the PSNI is not recognised in South Armagh is not rocket science, but because it is a British Police force”.

    That’s not entirely agreed by all in that constituency. Only recently I spoke to an SDLP supporter from that same South Armagh area, who pointed out that the people around the border (regardless of party allegience) have always had an ambivalent relationship to the law.

    That’s not to water down the strong political feelings that people have, but surely we are talking about a ‘compound’ rather than a single ‘element’ of sentiment towards the police. Any police! (For someone who only got a 7% Nerd rating, I know I shouldn’t mess even with such simple chemical allusions).

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    “You seem to imply that by facing up to change, as you put it, the PSNI has completely reformed. To Nationalist (and not just Republican) minds that isn’t the case.”

    It’s not a matter of opinion. The RUC was formerly one of the least accountable forces in the world, and now the PSNI is one of the most. It is completely different to what it was before. It is overseen by two independent and unconnected bodies, the Police Board and the Police Ombudsman, the latter which has notably gained a good degree of respect from republicans. Further work obviously still needs to be done, the obstacle to that seems to be in getting people who oppose the PSNI to actually explain what they want fixed. I never seem to be able to get a straight answer on that.

    “The image of dozens of riot-clad PSNI officers removing a Windows operating disc from SF offices in Stormont and last years events at Ardoyne shops left an indelible image for many.”

    There are so many holes in this argument that it is hard to know where to start. You forgot to mention that in the other places raided by the PSNI, lists of names of prison officers were recovered. But I’m sure that’s nothing more than an oversight on your part. Sinn Fein is a political party closely linked to an illegal and active armed paramilitary organization. It is to be expected that it will be harrassed from time to time by the police. This isn’t a PSNI specific matter, police in the Republic frequently arrest republicans including Martin Ferris years ago, the recent money laundering business, and I’m reading on RTE right now that two Sinn Fein members have been arrested in Co Leitrim today. Everyone knows rightly that SF are connected closely to the IRA and what they are doing. I would be very worried indeed if the PSNI never seemed to go near them. It is worrying enough that so far the assets recovery agency seem to have held back on them, presumably for political reasons (which are evaporating as we speak).

    What you seem to be implying in a round about way is that because SF are a political party the police should not investigate or even suspect their involvement in criminality. I’m afraid that’s not how it works. A mandate does not create immunity from prosecution. The only way this is going to stop is through the repudiation of paramilitarism and criminality. If this nonsense – thuggery, robberies and all the rest – continues you can expect things to get worse on either side of the border with a dramatic increase in activity by the Assets Recovery Agency and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

    Mick, I agree with you that there are people everywhere who make the police unwelcome. There are neighbourhoods in Dublin where it isn’t safe for Garda officers to walk around by themselves, and the same is true of many cities in the world. This isn’t for political reasons, it is partly to do with people who have long held ambivalence to authority but more to do with local criminal gangs holding on to their power bases by creating no-go areas for the cops.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    “The talk of intimidation in areas like the Short Strand is a convenient get out clause for those who have never even recognised there were problems with the RUC. “

    It’s particularly convenient for people who refuse to recognize that the IRA are a group of thugs, and who try to excuse their existence by talking about the failings of the police. Either you oppose misconduct and abuse or do you not, irrespective of where the problem comes from. It’s funny how it’s seen by certain people that the only way to solve these problems is to unconditionally disband the PSNI, and yet the unconditional disbandment of the IRA cannot be countenanced.

  • cg

    “It’s just ‘man and ball’ and that sort of thing. :-)”

    When did I play the man, NY owns a farm in South Armagh but doesn’t live there i.e. “Absentee Landlord”

    As for his ridiculous claims, in previous posts
    NY’s understanding of South Armagh has shown to be non-existent at best.

    As for the incident in question no member of that incident was “connected” to the movement, they are scum and the community rejected them unequivocally.

    “That’s not entirely agreed by all in that constituency. Only recently I spoke to an SDLP supporter from that same South Armagh area, who pointed out that the people around the border (regardless of party allegience) have always had an ambivalent relationship to the law.”

    If that is the case Mick then your correspondent was misleading you at best, I prefer lying

    In Forkhill last year the local DPP attempted to muscle into the village and hold one of their meetings, the people of Forkhill rejected this and started a petition and got 99% of the residents of Forkhill to sign it and the subsequent DPP meeting had to be abandoned.

    Anyone who knows the area would know it is not a huge Sinn Féin area and has a few stoops and even then they rejected the failed psni.

    This is the reality across South Armagh Mick and no attempt to distort this truth will work

  • fair_deal

    CG

    1. Please read my posts I never mentioned south Armagh’s others did.
    2. Other than make a flippant comment that I don’t understand could you show where and how I have misunderstood

  • cg

    Fair deal

    I apologise as you did not mention South Armagh implicitly but your analysis is still flawed, Mickhall has the correct analysis.

    South Armagh is also a republican area, which you did comment on.

  • fair_deal

    Cg

    Thank you for the apology.

    If we work on the premise that mickhall has provided an accurate description of opinion in South Armagh, then what is the point in negotiating with SF on policing? The implied logic of his argument is that the police cannot reform itself to become acceptable as it is not the actions of the police per se it is the existence of the state. A state that will be in existence for the forseeable future.

    Dec never responded to the following question may you could provide a response:
    “If I remember Patten correctly the RUC was subject to approximatley over 150 changes. Far from not a inch. Perhaps you could list for me the 150 changes on the republican position on policing?”

  • Henry94

    fair-deal

    150 changes is a meaningless statistic unless one of them is a change from unacceptable to acceptable.

    I don’t hold with the view that only in a united Ireland will policing be acceptable. What we need is a policing system that will be effective and answerable to all of us irrespective of the constitutional position.

    After all if your bycycle is stolen you shouldn’t have to wait for a referendum before you report it.

    The biggest stumbling block to police reform is the attitude of unionists not nationalists. They opposed every one of the changes you mentioned and had other changes stopped. because they can’t let go of the notion that the police are ‘theirs’.

    The unionist instinct in policing is the same as their attitude to power-sharing in councils, Orange marching and funding for St Patricks day. It’s abuse the power while you can and never never never make a positive step.

  • cg

    Fair deal

    In my opinion the vast majority of people in South Armagh will never accept a six county police force.

  • New Yorker

    Once again, does anybody have an answer to my question regarding the acceptance of the RIC in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries in South Armagh? And, if the RIC were accepted, what can be learned to apply to acceptance of the PSNI today? There is no doubt the area needs a legal police force, we have to figure out how to achieve that.

  • cg

    The RIC were not accepted in the late 19th and very early 20th century, they were hated.

  • fair_deal

    Henry

    I take it from your reply you cannot provide me with one example of a republcian concession on policing?

    “a change from unacceptable to acceptable.”

    I have spent all day on this thread trying to get a answer to what is presently unacceptable and what is needed to make it acceptable. So far I have got only two not very positive answers:
    1. A new police is not allowed to do anything that annoys the nationalist community.
    2. The existence of the state is the issue

    “Orange marching”

    I don’t ask you to stop being Irish and to stop expressing it. Don’t ask me to stop being an Ulster prod and expressing it.

    “They opposed every one of the changes you mentioned and had other changes stopped”

    This is simply not true. In the first interviews after the release of the Patten report both David Trimble and Peter Robinson said there were recommendations in Patten that they did not oppose and would welcome.

    Also despite their objections to the 50:50 rule Unionists took up their places on a policing board. Unionists are sitting on the board of a organisation that systematically discriminates against the community it primarily draws its support from. Sinn Fein refuses to join.

    Who is displaying intransigence on participation in new policing arrangements? Not Unionism but republicanism.

    Cg

    Thank you for your direct answer to the question.

    Dec/CG/Henry/Mick

    I must admit this has be a most depressing thread for me. The persistent attitude to change displayed by republicans is change is for everyone else but not for republicans. This attitude is what drove the Belfast Agreement into the ground and this source for your present problems i.e. McCartney murder and Northern Bank.

  • Davros

    The RIC were not accepted in the late 19th and very early 20th century, they were hated.

    By some, not all.Not even all nationalists hated them in the late 19th century. After all one of the seven who founded the GAA was a policeman….

  • IJP

    Mick – this is an excellent heads-up.

    For example, there’s a party next door causing a racket until 2am. You phone the Council… oh well, now, they’d have to take soundings. At 3am you phone the police… ah well, now, they could take a report but unless there’s persistent offending, you know… At 4am the music stops. At 4.05am they get a knock on the door, whereupon two men, with the letters of a proscribed paramilitary organization on their jackets, say ‘You’ll not be disturbed again, the ambulance is on its way.’ Tell me, who has solved your problem? The next time you’re disturbed by noisy neighbours, who are you going to call?

    It is nothing to do with the PSNI being an ‘unacceptable force’ or otherwise, and everything to do with terrorist gangs wishing to maintain control of their turf. But the fact is they very often do so with popular approval, because, immorally or otherwise, they are seen to deliver for their communities.

    It’s a very, very difficult conundrum to which I don’t pretend to have all the answers.

  • IJP

    By the way, I note yet again the ‘nationalists this’ and ‘nationalists that’ line.

    Some nationalists always accepted the police. Some have come to accept the police. Some will never accept the police.

    What is clear is that no one has the right so speak for all nationalists in the way hinted at above.

    By all means state your opinion clearly, folks, but don’t pretend it applies to whole groups of people, particularly when you know fine well it doesn’t.

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    “…if that is the case, your correspondent was misleading you at best, I prefer lying”

    You are right. I might have been mislaid. But then again, I wasn’t trying to be definative. Nor have I a particular axe to grind. I’m just trying to listen to what people tell me.

    Pat’s line that the Police have an unfortunate legacy is certainly credible.

    I have more difficulty understanding how there’s no validity in (an admittedly sectional and maybe that of a very small minority) view of the situation in S Armagh, that ‘cops as cops are unacceptable’ per se.

    However insignificant: it exists just the same.

  • cg

    Mick

    There is a small minority of people in South Armagh who support the cops.

    That said the vast majority don’t.

  • Mick Fealty

    I wasn’t making a case for people who supported the cops, just arguing that not everyone dislikes them for the same reason!

  • Mick Fealty

    And not everyone who doesn’t like them votes Sinn Fein! Night.

  • cg

    If everyone voted Sinn Féin we wouldn’t be in this mess 😉 Oíche Mhaith

  • New Yorker

    Dear Davos,

    Thank you for answering my question on the acceptance of the RIC in South Armagh. I suspect the majority of the people of the area supported them. I have read some newspapers from the area from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and have never come across any articles on hostility to the RIC, in fact, there are articles on them participating in community events and many of the surnames seem to be Catholic. Of course, then as now, there was a lunatic fringe full of venom. I know most of the people of South Armagh would like a legal police force; it is a government service they need. Chris Patten produced an excellent report and, hopefully, as the lunatic fringe fades away, it will implemented to its fullest.

  • Henry94

    fair_deal

    i Don’t ask me to stop being an Ulster prod and expressing it.

    Do you accept the parades commission?

  • aquifer

    I think it wierd that a society as paternalistic and authoritarian as ours does not yet have a wish for strong law and order expressed politically. I guess the politicians are too accustomed to excusing the bad behaviour of their own.

    Frank Field of the British Labour Party suggest that Police should be able to levy fixed penalties for anti-social behaviour. (lawyers in civil liberties organisations cry foul, old ladies cry silently behind locked doors)

    If people in NI all want those guilty of anti social behaviour or car crime locked into steel cages in the public street, the British should have nothing to say about the matter. We don’t need the IRA to punish unaccountably according to their personal and slanted preferences.

    The RIC were mostly Catholic, were they not? Would a young protestant who slabbered at an RIC man in those days have gotten away with it?

  • fair_deal

    I’m with Sinn Fein on this one – the Commission has failed, time for it to go.

  • beano

    “The next time you’re disturbed by noisy neighbours, who are you going to call?”
    Ghostbusters!

    With all the changes at the PSNI I don’t see any realistic reason for not accepting them, other than support of the police conflicting with one’s interest in criminal activities. Based on recent events, SF support for policing would be like Turkey’s voting for Christmas. The problem is that as long as people believe that the IRA are “freedom fighters” or whatever the ordinary republican on the ground will share their view that the PSNI are the enemy – because the IRA tell them to and they’re the wonderful people protecting us.

    It’s amazing what people will believe when they have undying loyalty to the source – I remember years ago the futility of trying to explain the error in the logic of a work colleague that “If they don’t get marching down the garvaghy road, next thing there’ll be a united Ireland”> Now that’s depressing.

  • Belfastwhite

    I have watched the media avalance descending upon Sinn Fein and the republican movement since the McCartney murder. The entire republican movement (not just the republicans involved) were guilty of a conspiracy of cover up and intimidation preventing the truth coming out. Well let’s examine a few cases of RUC/PSNI cover up.

    Pearse Jordan was an IRA Volunteer shot dead in front of dozens of witnesses. First reports said he was armed and was transporting an explosive device but it later transpired that in fact he hadn’t even got a paint brush in his hand that looked like a gun anyway that excuse was used before. The Jordan family (and they are not alone) are still awaiting an inquest to be completed.

    Then there is the case of Nora McCabe whose story is told on the excellent Relatives for Justice site. Added to the relatives of these victims who to date have received no justice are the thousands who have been through Castlereagh and other torture centres or who have been assaulted in the dark of night and then maybe this will tell you why the PSNI despite the welcome changes to date are despised in nationalist areas. There cannot be any confidence in the Police until nationalist are satisfied not only that incidents like these will not happen again but that justice will be served to the satisfaction of these victims and their families.

    And one more personal experience while on Community watch one night in West Belfast our group were stopped and P-Checked by a convoy of RUC personnel some tried to get into the policing debate seeing as we were basically doing their job for them. One RUC man told us to get back to our “Slum”! and people on here are saying it’s nationalist attitudes that have to change.

  • Belfastwhite

    Sorry that link didn’t work I’ll try again! Relatives for Justice

  • New Yorker

    Dear Belfastwhite,

    What would say the composition of your Community Watch is by political party?

  • Belfastwhite

    Dear New Yorker

    Our community watch was a non political grouping it was formed by a public meeting at a local community hall were volunteers were asked to take part.

    Maybe a better question would be what percentage by political/religous persuasion who were the victims of plastic bullet and controversial shootings by state forces not to mention internment without trial.