“it’s a reality check on this situation”

As Mick noted with an earlier Daily Ireland interview with IMC Chairman John Alderdice, Jarlath Kearney appears to be channelling Jeremy Paxman in this interview with the outgoing Vice Chairman of the Policing Board, Denis Bradley – beginning, for example, with “DI: Is Martin McGuinness’ phone currently bugged by Special Branch?” – Not that it doesn’t make for an interesting read. In this case that’s in part due to an interviewee who is acutely aware of the political implications behind some of the questions.I’m tempted to paste the entire interview, given the Daily Ireland’s website’s abysmal record of keeping links to articles valid – see Mick’s previous post on the Alderdice interview.

But I’ll extract some of the more interesting points –

DI – Daily Ireland
DB – Denis Bradley

DI: Is there a case, which republicans refer to, for labelling police who flow into politics as political detectives?
DB: Culturally I think there was a greater onus on Sinn Féin to actually lift more of the burden by taking their place on the Policing Board and holding Hugh Orde to account and having the type of questions that you’re directing at me, directed at them because why didn’t they lift part of this burden and expect people like me to kind of hold ground which I was only partially capable of ever holding.
DI: Is that not a victim approach that you eschewed earlier on?
DB: No, it’s a reality statement, it’s a reality check on this situation. I don’t feel a victim, I just feel a bit saddened by it. I think it was a wrong tactic. I disagreed with it.
DI: Do you accept Sinn Féin’s argument now that, number one, there are still in some influential positions within the PSNI ‘political detectives’, and number two, that devolution is now fundamental to securing maximum community confidence in the police?
DB: I think that is put in a fashion which is a completely Sinn Féin question, because it bears no reality to reality.
DI: So there aren’t political detectives?
DB: No, I didn’t say that. Let me finish the thing. Everything that happens is political. And when a very prominent Sinn Féin person becomes a police officer, I don’t expect him to change his heart, nor his culture, but what I expect him to do and what I would demand if I was still on the Policing Board is that he police with neutrality and with the best interests of all the people at heart. That’s what I mean by that the politics now flow into policing because those questions are asked because we don’t have an assembly, we don’t have an agreed executive.
DI: Yes but in fairness, Denis, republicans currently analyse a set of individuals within the PSNI as political detectives because they, in fact, conspired to bring down the assembly that you’re actually talking about.
DB: Well, you use the word conspire, I don’t think they conspired at all.
DI: But that’s why republicans talk about political detectives.
DB: No, they didn’t conspire. I think they made a mess of it. That’s been acknowledged by the chief constable and I certainly thought they made a mess of it and said so at the time. That’s why I think that analysis is not good enough. You see as republicans – and I talk about myself as a republican – we need to get past this. But if you begin to actually say he did that or she did that because he comes from the unionist tradition therefore it has to be a political position and therefore he has to be a political detective, we will never in true republican definitions move past where we’re at. Sinn Féin have had the experience of knowing more about change than probably any other entity within the North over the last 10 years. They have handled it extremely well except mainly on this one issue which I think they got wrong, because they politicised policing. If anyone politicised policing they politicised it by actually saying that we’ll only do it when it’s perfect according to our view. They politicised policing by saying, that’s one we will not touch with a barge pole.
DI: Patten came about because policing was political…
DB: No, hold on…
DI: That’s why Patten came about.
DB: Everything is political if you want to use that definition.
DI: Policing is fundamental to the maintenance of the status quo. That’s why it so serious for republicans.
DB: It is so serious for republicans and it’s the one that they didn’t engage with. To be fair to them, they said we will do that through legislation. If they don’t find a way of the policing to do that, then the only thing we’re left with is what is now being described in vague terms as joint management. And the rest of Ireland, which they now have a big stake in politically, will be left saying that there is one of the political parties here who doesn’t support policing within part of the island until they get some kind of devolved situation which might not happen for the next 20 years. Now that is not a political position I would advise anybody to take up.

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  • Shore Road Resident

    A great interview, marred by just one small problem: only a Daily Ireland hack would get this wound up about anyone bugging Martin McGuinness.
    If the interviewer had pressed on in this style with further questions about policing then this would have been interesting. As it stands, it just reads like Sinn Fein talking to the Policing Board – a spectacle we’ll be able to get in all the other papers mere months from now…

  • ingram


    Quote”As it stands, it just reads like Sinn Fein talking to the Policing Board – a spectacle we’ll be able to get in all the other papers mere months from now…

    As sure as night follows day.Not an ounce or a bullet, ack well I wont go on. We all know what the game is here.

    Game set and match.


  • Shore Road Resident

    I know, I know – and poor Jarlath Kearney either doesn’t realise he’s being used or is too much of a drone to care.
    If they were prepared to hang Danny Morrison out to dry over decommissioning, do the Daily Ireland crew really think the provos won’t strand them on the shore over policing?

  • pol

    Well done Jarlath you hooked and landed him beautifully.

  • Pete Baker


    Keep to the ball!

  • Shore Road Resident

    I’ll try Pete, I’ll try. And I agree with Pol that this was a good interview. But is it premised on an agenda that Sinn Fein is about to reverse. What then for our Daily Ireland heroes?

  • mickhall

    “DI: Policing is fundamental to the maintenance of the status quo.”

    Exactly, this statement says it all; and for the status quo to be maintained the northern statelet must exist in perpetuity. Thus no Irish Republican worthy of the name could sit on the police board, for were they to do so they would have morphed into a unionist.

    I do not intend to be insulting but there is no other way one can look at this. The purpose of this board is to provide window dressing for the PSNI, if the chief constable over-spends when redecorating his office they can bring him to account. If he allows, with or without his prior knowledge, the SB to bug and burgle there way through the Republican community that is an operational matter, thus according to Bradley not the boards concern.

    The police are not some independent neutral body but a defensive arm of the State. Which if push comes to shove will be used against any organization or individuals which threaten the smooth running of that state-let. Thus if Republicans sit on the police boards they will become part of the State-lets machine; and by being so they will be acting against the best interest of those they represent, it cannot but be so.

    I say again, if SF members sit on this police board they will have morphed into active defenders of the Union. What SF is being asked to do here is accept responsibility without power, which is one of oldest sleight of hands within Perfidious Albion’s armory.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Yep, I’m looking forward to it too.

  • Dessertspoon

    “I say again, if SF members sit on this police board they will have morphed into active defenders of the Union.”
    Please to see SF have learnt from the DUP, don’t get involved, don’t do the work, leave it to others,just sit and carp and criticise from the sidelines. A little less conversation a little more action please!!!

  • mickhall


    What type of work do you expect Republican’s to do? do you expect them to become kapo’s. [Kameradenpolizei] As far as I am aware such work has never been in an Irish Republican’s job description, still we live in interesting times.


  • Jacko

    “The police are not some independent neutral body but a defensive arm of the State.”

    Mick, is there anywhere in the world where that is not the case?
    All policing is political, answerable to elected representatives in a parliament and to the government of the day.

    The problem comes if policing is “party” political – that is, if they give allegiance to one particular party grouping.
    That is clearly not the case in Northern Ireland.

  • mickhall


    Your correct in a way, but for republicans and indeed anyone who believes in a revolutionary transformation of a State it is not an issue of this or that political party gaining favorable treatment by the State machine. The problem is with the State itself and whilst they may well recognize the advantage of working peacefully to bring about the demise of the State in question. Republicans can hardly go before their constituency and ask them to help them to destroy the said State when in reality they are helping to run it in the most efficient manner; and by so doing help smooth out the rough edges of the State machine, so that its fault lines become less obvious. Thus making its demise all the less likely, it is a circle that cannot be squared for republicans.

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t think the Police are supposed to be the defensive arm of the state. Their primary function should be upholding the law; even if that means acting against the state.

    The state should certainly uphold the law, and sustain the independence of the police (armies are different creatures altogether). Bradley has a point when he suggest ad hominem arguments about who the police amounts to a muddying of waters.

    After all, when every one else was having screaming abdabs about the new super councils, Sinn Fein (or at least most of Sinn Fein) pointed calmly to the importance of legislative safeguards that would apply.

    There may also be a deal of muddy thinking on this in NI, because in the past the Police have been treated as interchangeable with the Army.

    Indeed, given the existence of informal forms of policing in Republican and Loyalist areas over an extended period and little accountable application of abstract principle, such distinctions are even more likely to blur.

    Perhaps a more lawyerly brain could intervene and help on some of this?

  • mickhall


    You might not think the police are a defensive arm of the State, you might not wish them to be so, but when push comes to shove that is what they are. Or are going to to tell me the RUC implemented the rule of law during the ‘troubles’, and every time they demanded entry into a nationalist home they had the paper work at hand. No, they just kicked the door in? then why did they not arrest themselves for breaking and entering, plus the British soldiers who were alongside them. We better not go near collusion or we will be here all night, but I hope you will agree it was illegal and had nothing to do with defending the individual against the State, yet the RUC were up to there armpits in collusion, it was not a case of a few bad apples but governmental policy.

    To suggest the police’s main role is to protect the citizens [in our case subjects] against the State is nonsensical. If this is so, how come the police swear allegiance to the head of State and not the people? Or has the PSNI re-dressed that particular window.

    Let us just look across to England during the miners strike during which the police broke almost every law in the book when playing the role alloted to them by the Thatcher government.

    Oh and I suppose the Brazilian shot himself, must have as no one has been charged with his murder. Why, special circumstances, what do you know the state was under threat, all bets are off for the duration.

    Take the French police during the occupation;. Did they defend the people against the State? Is that what they were doing when they were rounding up French children who by an accident of birth happened to be jewish. Please mick.

    I will concede the police in a normal situation and democratic State do a necessary job, the fact is the north of Ireland is not a Democratic State, nor is it going through a normal situation, otherwise there would be no need for the likes of the GFA. Thus the police are an arm of government. To believe they exist independent of the State is to live in la la land.

    Forgive my bluntness, but for socialist Republicans this is an issue of some importance.

  • Jacko

    “… it is a circle that cannot be squared for republicans.”

    Though coming at it from a different political perspective, Mick, I agree with you entirely.

    The real problem for Sinn Fein is to explain their ACTUAL position to their supporters.

    They have moved light years from trying to destroy the state.
    When they signed up to the GFA they recognised the position of NI within the UK until a majority freely decides otherwise.
    The problem with policing is nothing to do with this nonsense of “political policing”.
    It is the last fig leaf concealing the fact that SF signed up to a partitionist settlement that only a majority can change at the ballot box.

  • Jacko

    “I don’t think the Police are supposed to be the defensive arm of the state. Their primary function should be upholding the law; even if that means acting against the state.”

    Sorry, but you are so wrong.
    By every measure, the police are ultimately the internal defensive arm of the state.
    The state (any state) makes the laws that the police uphold, defend and enforce. Those laws can be good, bad or indifferent the police will enforce them.
    In a liberal democracy, of course, the police has “operational” independence. But that is an entirely different thing than independence from the legislature.
    If the police acts against other servants of the state, it is because they have broken their (the states)own laws.
    Far, far more than the army, the police is recognised as the final and far more trustworthy bastion of the state.
    When did you last, if ever, hear of a police coup in a country?

  • Pete Baker


    “By every measure, the police are ultimately the internal defensive arm of the state.
    The state (any state) makes the laws that the police uphold, defend and enforce.”

    Indeed.. internal defensive arm of the law[s].. but somehow I get the impression that isn’t quite the definition of “defensive arm of the state” that Mick Hall has in mind.. a touch of the anti-capitalist rhetoric entering into the dialogue perhaps?.. why else the miner’s strike, or the French, reference.. MickH will, of course, correct me if I’m wrong on that.

  • Jacko

    I know.

  • Pete Baker


    I know you know 🙂

    But it’s a distinction that is, more likely than not, important to make in this particular debate.

  • Jacko

    “… the fact is the north of Ireland is not a Democratic State, …”

    Care to elaborate, Mick.
    I would be very interested in your definition of a “democratic state”.
    Then, perhaps, we could peruse the planet to see if we can find one that fits with your definition.

  • Mick Fealty

    Mick et al,

    What I actually said was, “are supposed to be”… That’s precisely why I asked for lawerly advice!

    The theory as regards law on this is far from trivial, and the more clarity we can get, so much the better!! There is rather a lot of ‘creative’ fudging on the issue.

    Bottom line: for genuine peace to take hold, cops and soldiers should/must have quite distinct roles.

  • Pete Baker

    Well, Mick, I thought that Jacko’s description was accurate in regard to the legal position of the police –

    By every measure, the police are ultimately the internal defensive arm of the state.
    The state (any state) makes the laws that the police uphold, defend and enforce.

    Which I further defined as the internal defensive arm of the law[s].

    The problem is that other commenters may be chosing different definitions of the state.. not the police.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m fairly sure there is a difference between the law on one hand and the state on the other.

    Yet not being a lawyer, I’m not in a position to be precise about the definitions, but I’ve a hunch this may be crucial.

    As I understand it, the police are compelled act under their own interpretation (and to carry the can afterwards) or to follow the court’s direction. At the same time, they are not necessarily compelled to follow the direction of the state’s Executive.

  • Pete Baker

    “I’m fairly sure there is a difference between the law on one hand and the state on the other.”

    That was the distinction I was trying to make, Mick.

    It was, after all, a distinction that was missing from the earlier discussion.

  • mickhall

    When did you last, if ever, hear of a police coup in a country?

    Absolutely, a very astute statement if I may say, and it was one of the reasons I included the French police, for the overwhelming majority of this force moved effortlessly from serving the French Republic
    to the Vichy government in the south and the occupation power in the north of the country. In other words there loyalty was to the state, or rather those who had power within in it, not the rule of law as laid down by the French Republic.

    Your also correct about SF, but the fact is for its main working class constituency in the north the police will be a very difficult rubicon for them to cross, for the personal experiences of working class nationalist as far as the RUC is concerned or for younger members the PSNI are far from good, indeed the police have been the sharp end of the State-let and for SF to be seen to administer that organization, even in the smallest manner, will be for many a bridge to far, and rightly so in my opinion.

    The British understand this, hence their determination to force Mr Adams to join these mupney boards, when there is absolutely no constructive reason for SF doing so, SF has already accepted the rule of law and that is all any State can demand of its people or their political representatives. The shinners should tell Blair it is your police and if they step over the mark we will expose them publicly for doing so and not via back channels and the old boys network so beloved by the likes of Mr Bradley. [a man who according to his own words failed to ask questions because no one asked him to]

    The interview with Bradley clearly showed these boards are powerless window dressing. Similar police committees are in place in England and no half decent politician would waste their time sitting on them. As Bradley said, why bother phoning the Chief Constable when you can telephone the Teoiseach or PM. That statement said it all for me.


    You have the measure of my meaning, however for me this issue is not mere anti capitalist rhetoric, far from it. It is part of my core political beliefs, one just does not serve the bosses man.

  • Pete Baker


    You have the measure of my meaning, however for me this issue is not mere anti capitalist rhetoric, far from it. It is part of my core political beliefs, one just does not serve the bosses man.

    I understand that, MickH, completely. But it is important, in terms of the discussion, that everyone understands that it is part of your core political beliefs.. whether it serves the bosses man or not.. which, of course, it doesn’t 🙂

  • Dave

    The place where the problem is, to which you (yes you) believe that you (yes you) have the solution is called NORTHERN IRELAND. If you (yes you) can’t get that small but important part right or deliberately go out of your way to get it wrong by referring to NORTHERN IRELAND as The North or in some cases the North of Ireland (for either a political, sectarian or bigoted reason) Why would one anyone have any interest in talking what you (yes you) put in print as a serious point?

    Not only is what you (yes you) do wrong it also allows the mask to slip doesn’t it? It’s far too late change now boys or is it? Mind you (yes you) there will be those who relish the thought of angering the other community whilst at the same time attempt to put over their as they see it non sectarian non bigoted point of view.

    The fact that you (yes you) use the reference of The North or The North of Ireland is very unhelpful to say the least.

    I would suggest that those of the other community should refrain from participating in further debates on Slugger which would of course render Slugger…..pointless. then again maybe the other community should start to use some of those well known names when referring to the Republic of Ireland. But that would mean coming down to your (yes your) level.

    You can do better than this, you can get that sectarian, bigoted streak out of you, if not, then don’t expect “others” to get rid of their streaks?

    All together now NORTHERN IRELAND, NORTHERN IRELAND and an Irish one NORTHERN IRELAND. wasn’t too difficult was it?

  • Jacko

    Mick Fealty
    “At the same time, they are not necessarily compelled to follow the direction of the state’s Executive.”

    The elected parliament of a liberal democratic state makes law(s) that is where sovereignty in a strictly legal sense lies. The police are duty bound to enforce those laws – whether they are good, bad or indifferent. So the police are compelled to follow the direction of the state’s executive as long as the executive arm has not bypassed parliament in the making of law.
    Also, beyond the common sense aspect of it, police do not interpret law, that is for the courts.
    One could argue that the most powerful body in the US is the Supreme Court. But even it is only a final arbiter on law made by the executive arm of the nation.

    Still waiting on your definition of democracy, Mick. And your elaboration on why NI isn’t one.

  • Reader

    mickhall: one just does not serve the bosses man.
    Is there any objection to working in any other part of the civil service?

  • mickhall


    I have not forgotten, but as what one posts on slugger can come back and haunt one I want to be precise in my reply, but to begin with I would just ask this. Is it not a strange democracy in which the party which gains the most votes[DUP] refuses to enter into government, instead preferring to allow others to govern those who voted for them, despite the fact that governing direct rule party[LP] has a history of sitting on the opposite benches to the DUP.

    I am not suggesting NI is not linked to a bourgeois democracy [jargon again Pete 😉 but it is not an active participant in that democracy imo [UK]. The problem with the northern State is that it is a half way house type of thing, not fish nor fowl. Whilst there can be an argument for direct rule when there was an insurgency taking place, this ended getting on for ten years ago. Thus the fact that no democratic government has evolved since then which is acceptable to all parties I suppose is my main gripe with the northern state-let as far as democratic accountability is concerned.[a re-united Ireland is a different argument]

    Having said this I suppose my definition of bourgeois democracy is the rule by a government elected under a system of one man one vote; the election which brought it to power having taken place under the strict criteria of a level playing field for all Party’s. Now I am sure there are many pitfalls in such a system of government, especially these days when the media is mainly owned by supporters of one political strategy, i e pro globalization etc. The downside of this is obvious and very dangerous imo.

    However having said this even an old lefty like me can recognize
    that this bourgeois democracy that slips off my tongue with such contempt is the best system human kind has come up with to date. This is not to say it cannot be improved upon, especially in the UK which unbelievably, still has an unelected second chamber made up of place men and women and go-for’s. Thus it is imperative those of us who value our freedoms act as Rottweilers, forever snapping at the heals of government. I would add I do not see such vigilance as being a party political thing, but the responsibility of all good men and true[and women of course]

    All the best.

  • Jacko

    Thanks Mick.
    Would that we all had your courtesy and good manners – not least myself.

    NI remains a region of the UK so, strictly speaking and only dealing with the universal sufferage element of democracy, as we are able to elect reps to speak on our behalf in the central parliament at Westminster, we have a fully operational democratic system.

    The present DUP position on Stormont can be argued either way: They are denying local democratic representation and accountability to others by refusing to take their seats. Or, as the party representing a majority, they are fulfilling the democratic wishes of a majority of the people by not taking their seats.
    Of course, on the second we enter the realms of the north/south vote on the GFA and the implications for democracy of the expressed wishes of the people of the island being thwarted by the DUP.
    Except, soverignty lies with the people of the UK through parliament at Westminster.

    We should remember, as well, that devolution to regions within a state is not an essential feature of a liberal democracy.

  • corcaigh

    Jeremy Paxman my arse. 2nd year UCC debating society be’d more like it.

    Do you never get bored of this stuff? I mean, “force beyond a force” – come on!!!