One community of law

Via Newshound, Newton Emerson picked up on the statement by Sinn Féin MLA Willie Clarke on the drive-by shooting in Newcastle on Monday – “We need the community to get involved” – which I noted at the time, and asks “what does he mean by the community, exactly?”

As Newton points out, the ubiquitous community label is too readily used in an attempt to legitimise and disguise other agendas –

Because community implies grassroots legitimacy it is an ideal disguise for such top-down exercises in social control. Being so deliberately ill-defined it is also a tricky disguise to unmask. But unmask it we must if we are not to be told who we are, what we are, how to think and where to think it by everyone anxious to group us under their own agendas. A fair society, as St Augustine observed, must comprise one community of law.

Read the whole thing..

  • Doreen

    And the most ridiculous use of the word community is in the phrase “international community” – surely the greatest contradiction in terms ever.

  • middle-class taig

    Interesting, readable and thoughtful as always.
    I think Newton glosses over the fact that electoral support legitimises assertions of representation of a given community. Top-downism is limited in any democracy because we can turf the pochails out at the next vote.

    In any event, wasn’t Clarke, by saying “we need the community to get involved, and not “we the community need to get involved”, explicitly avoiding precisely the kind of presuptuous assumption of community leadership Emerson is complaining about?

    The St Augustine quote is lovely (especially in the Papal News). However, I rather think that Newton doesn’t think it through. Clarke’s point, I think, would be that the community has to become involved in the resolution of this issue because current official arrangements do not afford a single, consistent “community of law”, such as to attract the confidence of the community it needs to serve. Just because you vote SDLP doesn’t mean you’re comfortable with current policing arrrangements.

    I think NA has a lot of good stuff to say. I’m sometimes concerned that he cannot hear a republican (or more precisely, a SF) message without deliberately misinterpreting it to mean the most negative thing possible.

    Liberal unionists such as he need to understand that we look with different eyes than them, and hear with different ears.

  • aquifer

    “Top-downism is limited in any democracy because we can turf the pochails out at the next vote.”

    A vote might get rid of the first part of SFPIRA, but not the second, a part which has not shown any particular respect for democracy and human rights over the years.

    Until SF support the police, invoking ‘The Community’ could just be SF gathering people up in order to impress them with how the armed wing can still intimidate juvenilles, the source of most neighbourhood complaints.

  • Occasional Commentator

    MCT,
    Elected politicians can at most claim to represent those who voted for them, not everyone in the constituency which elected them. And even then, many voters do so reluctantly because they simply have a greater dislike for the alternatives.

    Even when a canditate I happily vote for does win, it doesn’t give him/her to right to speak for me. I speak for me.

    If we don’t like their message, we chuch them out next time around. I think this sort of means that they have retrospectively lost their mandate – i.e. they only have a mandate if the win the next election as well.