Northern Ireland: Europe’s emergent Zimbabwe?

Tom Kelly reckons that recent government proposals seriously compromise basic principles of law and justice, that once broken cannot be easily rectified. Firstly:

The ‘on the run’ (OTR) legislation is yet another form of stomach-churning pandering that is difficult to fathom alongside a commitment not to forget victims. Terrorists who have committed atrocities won’t have to spend one day in jail or show up in court thanks to the government-inspired amnesty. And before any NIO wordsmith gets smart – if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck; it’s a duck. If you are not convicted of anything, don’t own up to anything and don’t serve time for anything it’s an amnesty.

The Provisionals did not seem to mind that ‘state’ perpetrators of unlawful actions could avail of the opt-out clause on ‘scheduled offences’. Why should they? This whole process has made lairs out of the non-violent pro-agreement parties. For the Provisionals the game has always been about power for them and patronage for their henchmen.

But the Zimbabwe jibe is based on the second wave of proposals around the government’s proposals that CRJ, need not refer anything to the police:

The issues surrounding ‘community restorative justice’ schemes are equally abhorrent. What is so difficult about the government saying that there can be no such scheme which operates outside of the criminal justice system and which is not police approved? Any scheme which operates outside of this should be deemed illegal and closed down. As a member of the Policing Board I am fed up with elements of the NIO undermining the primacy of the board in policing matters. Patten rightly described the board as the ‘policing’ not the police board and that point seems lost on some.

It is futile to talk about the transfer of policing and judicial powers to any locally elected members until that primacy is established. To do otherwise could make the board a political pawn in the hands of a partisan minister. Not that British ministers worry about such things, after all they have an eye on the succession arising from the war of the roses at Millbank.

  • seabhac siulach

    This rant of Kelly’s is all very well. But to what end? Is is helpful to compare the 6 counties to Zimbabwe? No, it is ridiculous…
    And, all this from a member of an unelected quango (the ‘policing’ board)…lecturing us on the democratic process…quite hilarious really…

    What does he want? Should all the OTRs present themselves for trial? Be convicted, after huge expense and then be immediately released under the Good Friday Agreement? Many would say that the money wasted on such empty theatrical ‘justice’ would be better spent on more worthwhile things…more local human things, like schools, etc. of greater benefit to normal people.

    “The Provisionals did not seem to mind that ‘state’ perpetrators of unlawful actions could avail of the opt-out clause on ‘scheduled offences’. Why should they? ”

    I think that the ‘provisionals’ have made their position very clear on this point over the past few days, e.g., McGuinness’ letter to the Irish Times on Saturday last, etc, etc. The opt out for
    ‘state’ perpetrators was included by the Brit. govt. without the knowledge of either Sinn Fein or the Irish govt. In any case, individual guilt in terms of collusion is largely irrelevant…it is the guilt of the state in ordering/forcing individuals to carry out attacks/murders which should and must be investigated.
    I feel that the SDLP and their stooges are playing a very sordid game, using the memory of collusion victims to score cheap political points off Sinn Fein. One may ask, how would the SDLP solve the problem of the OTRs?

    In a comment on his last points…the CRJ system was set up precisely because large sections of the community do not trust the police. This cannot be changed over night, even with wishful and naive thinking.
    Perhaps the primacy of the board should be enforced (how?) and whole sections of the community left without any justice whatsoever…is that really an answer?
    I love the comment about ‘To do otherwise could make the board a political pawn in the hands of a partisan minister.’ (Are not all ministers partisan, is that not the essence of politics?)
    Of course, if police and judicial power were transferred to locally elected members then the CRJs will no longer (in all likelihood) need to exist as the communities in which they operate will give their allegiance and support to a locally controlled police force. So his point on this is fatuous and shows some fear of local democracy.
    One may ask, does Mr. Kelly fear the application of locally administered justice? One may also ask, if he is, in fact, afraid of the very democracy he so breezily compares to Zimbabwe…

  • Tom

    I note with interest the propaganda machine at work. Unelected quango – the policing Board? With 19 members -ten of whom are elected. How many so called ‘community groups’ are self electing in Northern Ireland? The world does not begin and end with elected members – given a third of the electorate dont vote! Does ‘election’ give some special insight? Or more democracy? Ask Francie Molloy or John Kelly about free speech! Do I fear locally administrated justice – the short answer is yes – having had to intervene on behalf of many families in the Newry area -who were to be on the receiving end of locally administrated justice – I do indeed fear it. I also know of local republicans who so feared locally administered justice so much that when their own kids were found to be errant – handed them over to the police – rather than face the local version of restorative justice. Victims were told as were all parties that – on the runs ‘ would have to serve some time. Sinn Fein argued and got an opt out – but they did not reckon on the Brits taking the opportunity to collude with them of out mutual interest – on opt outs for errant members of the security forces. Get real and grow up. Its not out of time for sdlp types to start getting rough – they have bowed down once too often. The Provisional gravy train is for provisonals -other members of the public need not apply!

  • John East Belfast

    I wonder if the SDLP types would have been as vociferous in their attacks on the OTR legislation if it had not included so called State collusion matters ?

    They managed to hold their noses and swallow hard like the rest of us when all the convicted criminals were let out.

    Personally I would not have had any OTR legislation – to me eternal banishment at risk of arrest would have been the cross they would have to carry as a reminder for the rest of their miserable lives.

    They could have course called our bluff and returned. To be honest I had no desire to pay for more Holiday homes for our overly enriched legal profession by going through pointless trials either.

  • SS (how unfortunate an acronym)-

    Is is helpful to compare the 6 counties to Zimbabwe? No, it is ridiculous

    As regards the Zimbabwe metaphor, as I said on El Blogador yesterday, “the streets of Belfast may no longer be like those of Harare, but the cloak-and-dagger dealings of late would make Robert Mugabe proud.” I don’t think there’s any suggestion of a direct comparison to what people have to endure under Mugabe, but rather that the way in which political dealings have been taking place without the consent or agreement of the vast majority of elected representatives in the north, is similar to the kind of anti-democratic aloofness of the Mugabe regime.

    Should all the OTRs present themselves for trial? Be convicted, after huge expense and then be immediately released under the Good Friday Agreement?

    Yes- that is what was agreed in the GFA, and that is want relatives demand. Are you saying that the Bloody Sunday Tribunal shouldn’t have taken place because it’ll cost a lot? Sometimes justice is expensive. If belligerents of the Troubles hadn’t committed the crimes in the first place, the public purse wouldn’t have to fork out to bring them to justice. They can’t simply now claim that they should get off scot-free becuase it’ll cost too much to make them face justice.

    I think that the ‘provisionals’ have made their position very clear on this point over the past few days

    Yes- I think Conor Murphy made it quite clear when he flew to London to congratulate Hain on the legislation and to do press briefings welcoming its arrival. Funny how the provos did a 180 when they realised nationalists and republicans were disgusted.

    using the memory of collusion victims to score cheap political points off Sinn Fein

    Just as Sinn Féin has done to score points off the British for years.

    CRJ system was set up precisely because large sections of the community do not trust the police

    So it’s an alternative to the police for areas that don’t like the PSNI? Where’s the checks and balances for CRJ, like the Policing Board and DPPs for the PSNI? Where is the transparent recruitment system for CRJs, like the PSNI has? Who investigates CRJ mistakes, like The Police Ombudsman does for the PSNI? What do CRJs do about serious crime such as murder or rape- do they have the expertise of PSNI SOC Officers?

    Most children grow out of playing cops and robbers by the age of 10.

  • BogExile

    SS: –

    Your argument is morally and intellectually deficient.

    1. If police powers were transferred to some elected politicians in this benighted slum, you’d have the reintroduction of the stocks and justice via power tools. The police should properly stand outside and above politics but given the state we’re in they have been unwisely added to the mix to appease extremists. Elected or not, it’s the equivalent of putting King Herod in charge of childcare.

    2. Zimbabwe is a paragon of civic vitue compared to the situation which obtains in some of our ghettos (and yes that’s what they are) where Sinn Fein on behalf of the people living there have refused to recognise the legitimacy of the police. Into the vacuum pour various psychologically and organisationally warped people and structures which seduce idiot US philanthropists by adopting the vague personnae of ‘restorative justice.’ Not getting the real police involved allows these vigilanties to pervert the processes of justice and embed themselves as the arbiters of community law in the 3/4 streets they control.

    Putting republicans or loyalists in charge of community justice is like employing an arsonist in a petrol station.

  • seabhac siulach

    Tom:

    “I note with interest the propaganda machine at work. ”

    And your scribbles would be what? Hardly a balanced social commentary.

    “Unelected quango – the policing Board? With 19 members -ten of whom are elected. How many so called ‘community groups’ are self electing in Northern Ireland? The world does not begin and end with elected members – given a third of the electorate dont vote! Does ‘election’ give some special insight? Or more democracy?”

    Yes, unelected…unless you regard being appointed by the British minister of state as an election…
    That is, the policing board is an unelected body containing members who are directly appointed by a man who has no electoral mandate even within the island of Ireland….some democracy. And is Mr. Hain not one of those ‘partisan’ ministers you mention? (Or are only Irish partisan?)
    It is irrelevant that 10 of the members are elected, they were not elected to sit on the policing board…that was not the polity that people in the 6 counties elected them for. So to mention their election in this context, no more than their election to the local golf club, is fatuous.

    I find it strange that a self-declared democrat (as in sDlp) would argue that the world ‘does not begin and end with elected members’. And, of course, elections do give more democracy in answer to the question…self-evidently so…
    Instead of berating Sinn Fein on matters relating to policing, etc., Mr. Kelly might more usefully spend his time asking the other parties, notably the DUP, why they are holding up the necessary and long overdue transfer of powers to Stormont? Our hospitals, schools, roads, etc. are desperately in need of a local hand to administer them. But, no, for sordid party policial reasons, why not have another go at the Shinners…that’ll do it…
    (Might keep you all in a job that bit longer)

    “Do I fear locally administrated justice – the short answer is yes – having had to intervene on behalf of many families in the Newry area, etc…)”

    Here, I feel Mr. Kelly is being disingenous. He knows that CRJ does not rely on violence or the threat of violence. Indeed one of its stated aims is to remove the (community demanded!) use of violence against ‘anti-social’ elements in certain neighbourhoods. That is, the CRJ is an evolution, a peaceful way forward for communities that still do not trust the police.
    They are, therefore, something to be applauded and not feared. What would Mr. Kelly do, allow wrong-doing to go unpunished in these areas?
    The longer we go without a ‘partisan’ local minister in charge of policing, the longer the trust in the police will be withheld. A symbol of a new non-biased police force is needed, such as the symbolic transfer of policing powers to Stormont. May I note that the actions of the PSNI, for example, in raiding the Casement Park GAA grounds does little to convince people that the police has changed for the better.
    Trust is a thing built slowly and not through public haranguing in the print media nor in heavy handed police raids on valued community sports centres.

    “but they did not reckon on the Brits taking the opportunity to collude with them of out mutual interest – on opt outs for errant members of the security forces.”

    So, are you arguing that Sinn Fein should be criticised for another typical slimy manipulation of the British ruling classes?

    “Its not out of time for sdlp types to start getting rough – they have bowed down once too often.”

    Yes, but the ones you were bowing down to had the crown on their caps. Okay, let us see the SDLP getting tough? We will await with interest your next joint attack on the DUP and why they are preventing a return to Stormont. If the SDLP expended a fraction of the energy on this vital matter and less on purely party political point scoring off Sinn Fein then I think that all of us in the 6 counties would benefit.

  • seabhac siulach

    El Matador:

    “Yes- that is what was agreed in the GFA, and that is want relatives demand. Are you saying that the Bloody Sunday Tribunal shouldn’t have taken place because it’ll cost a lot? Sometimes justice is expensive.”

    There is a difference between state sanctioned murder and that carried out by non-state paramilitary groups (or individuals within these groups). One cannot be compared with the other. The misuse of state resources against its own people is far more serious than the actions of a handful of OTRs, no matter what their individual crime.
    Whether the release of the OTRs is justice or not is irrelevant. It was not very correct in a judicial sense to empty the prisons in 2000. It is the price of the peace process. Does conviction in front of a Diplock (non-jury) court actually entail a fair trial? There is no point in it…it is mere symbolism…
    To agree to be ‘released’ on licence by the British govt. already (to my mind) entails a degree of acceptance of guilt by the OTRs.

    “So it’s an alternative to the police for areas that don’t like the PSNI? Where’s the checks and balances for CRJ, like the Policing Board and DPPs for the PSNI? Where is the transparent recruitment system for CRJs, like the PSNI has? Who investigates CRJ mistakes, like The Police Ombudsman does for the PSNI? What do CRJs do about serious crime such as murder or rape- do they have the expertise of PSNI SOC Officers?”

    Nobody is saying that CRJ is perfect. However, in the absence of community trust in policing it is the only game in town. The quicker that local democracy is returned the quicker that normal policing can resume. Where is all the heat and energy that should be expended on this topic…?

    Bog Exile:

    “morally and intellectually deficient”…hmmm…well, I am perhaps one of these…but both?

    “If police powers were transferred to some elected politicians in this benighted slum, you’d have the reintroduction of the stocks and justice via power tools.”

    I see that you are another fearful of democracy.
    Nothing makes a moderate out of a radical quicker than the assumption of political responsibility…the same would be as true in the 6 counties as elsewhere.
    There would still be elections, for example…so that any of these medieval type ministers for justice would be quickly shown the door…

    “our ghettos (and yes that’s what they are) where Sinn Fein on behalf of the people living there have refused to recognise the legitimacy of the police. Into the vacuum pour various psychologically and organisationally warped people and structures which seduce idiot US philanthropists by adopting the vague personnae of ‘restorative justice.’”

    In those communities (‘ghettos’) people continue to vote for Sinn Fein in election after election. Therefore, the people are happy with how they are delaing with local issues, including non-recognition of the police. CRJ is a result of this non-recognition. People will not be coerced into the political inspired recognition of a police force through the lack of a community system of law enforcement, hence, the use of CRJ.

  • Tom

    Sinn Fein and their supporters will slink through the back door and get on board policing whether they have a mandate to or not – the same way they have u turned on everything else that once was a principle. So many principles that were held so dearly at one time – others died for them and many more went to jail for them! I welcome the transformation but stop making a virtue out of it. CRJ itself has a role in a criminal justice system – but those operating it must be accountable -as it is they are not. As for your comments about ‘bowing to a crown’ I note you have no such qualms about accepting a crown or two for the Sinn Fein coffers -either from the Exchequer or anywhere else. I am well known for being critical of the SDLP and the other parties but then with your myopic views you probably chose not to read those articles but they are all there in the archive. But of course freedom to speak ones mind in Sinn Fein extends to the mindset you are allowed to have!

  • Northern FF

    “May I note that the actions of the PSNI, for example, in raiding the Casement Park GAA grounds does little to convince people that the police has changed for the better.
    Trust is a thing built slowly and not through public haranguing in the print media nor in heavy handed police raids on valued community sports centres”

    Indeed you may SS.

    May I also thank you for bringing it up.

    Is it just me, or is anyone else out there holding their nose against the stink of Provisional hypocrisy on this one? Does anyone else remember how ‘valuable’ Casement park was to teh Provos in the good old days- when it was treated as an ATM for the local heroes?

    I’m no fan of the cops, but they have a right to go wherever an investigation takes them. As far as I know, they didn’t land in masked and demand the till takings – or did I miss that?

  • Tom

    I also notice the rank hypocrisy the comments re:Casement Park. Being slightly older – I remember standing in Casement many a Sunday when the Association got robbed on a regular basis by Oglaigh na Eireann in the name of freedom. No wonder Casement lost out over the years as a premier Ulster sporting venue. Little wonder now that Sinn Fein are clamouring ahead of the pack for a new ‘national’ stadium at the Maze most probably known as Pairc i Best. How national interests are so cheaply sold out on the provisional altar of expediency.

  • Pacman

    Tom,
    I’d be interested in your views of your police colleagues decision to completely close down Jonesborough market on sunday thereby denying legitmate customers such as myself and legitimate traders, such as a number of my close friends, the right to trade.

    Should the traders be entitled to sue the PSNI for loss of earnings on one of their biggest days of the year? Do the police have the right to close every approach road to the village and prevent shoppers from entering? Surely the legitimate traders in the market can be accessed whilst the rogue traders outside of the market are dealt with?
    By their the PSNI’s actions, I don’t expect there’ll be too many rushing to join this “inclusive” police force anytime soon.

  • aquifer

    “Should all the OTRs present themselves for trial? Be convicted, after huge expense and then be immediately released under the Good Friday Agreement”

    Yes, the should is important. and if they speak up for a change to save time there need not be any undue expense.

    It may be difficult to put a lot of this into the public domain however, and it may not belong in a british courtroom, but it should be on the record somewhere before perps are passed fit for release into the same social space as their victims.

    The problem may lie with a few senior shinners who do not want their past deeds exposed or even outlined, never mind the needs of victims.

  • harpo

    seabhac siulach

    You said:

    ‘One may ask, how would the SDLP solve the problem of the OTRs?’

    Most of us don’t see that there is any OTR problem.

    Let them stay on the run. The Provos are the only lot that actually want them back. Law abiding folks don’t.

    The SDLP is being consistent – no deals for any criminals, whether those criminals are Provo OTRs, loyalists not OTR, or members of the security forces. The SDLP says that all should face real justice. Given that however, it is unlikely that any Provo OTR would ever come back to NI to face real justice, if that was all there is as the SDLP suggests.

    I take the view that these people are being punished to some degree by having to be on the run. They can’t come back to NI so miss out on seeing the place and family and friends. That’s some degree of punishment and certainly more than they would face if this legislation passes.

    You supporters of the Provo OTRs can drone on all you want about ‘the OTR problem’. The rest of us don’t care about it. It isn’t a problem to us. Now that the PIRA has supposedly decommissioned fully, exactly what are the Provos going to do about it if the OTRs aren’t allowed back into NI? Whine even more than usual?

    This whole issue has arisen out of a side deal that the people didn’t vote for. A sordid dirty side deal that most people object to. It will just be tough luck for the Provos if this deal doesn’t actually become law.