One of my first and most memorable experiences of Law and Order in Northern Ireland was phoning the Police one evening in 1993 to deal with a disturbance outside my restaurant. When I told the Officer in Charge the name of the place I lived in, he laughed and told me the name of the individual in the village who would deal with my problem. As a new Yorker with firm ideas of why I pay my tax, and whose job it should be to police problems, I was outraged, but it was the beginning of a long learning process. There is no need for me to rehearse the various reasons and causes of the unacceptability of the Police in certain areas of Northern Ireland. Officially, as we know, there is still the party line that there is no communication with the service. But, as El Matador kindly drew to my attention, there appears to be a softening on the ground, with an increase in the number of incidents being reported in the heartland of republicanism, South Armagh. In particular, the number of (subs needed, 9.6.6) domestic violence incidents being reported has raised significantly with 192 incidents of domestic violence were reported in 2005/2006 compared with 162 the previous year and 70 in 2003/2004.
While it is only speculative, we do have to ask if this is a newly emerging and rising level of crime, or one that has gone unreported for years due to the inability of women to make these reports.
In Newry, there is also an obvious softening of the approach with officers on bicycles and a much more overt presence. Local councillor BrendanCurran has raised serious concerns about the level of drugs on the streets of Newry. If he is correct and we are starting to see the beginnings of a heroin problem, then this is the time to let the petty political concerns go and establish a partnership to take control of the streets.
My opinion remains firm. Without a Police service, there is no future. Without engagement, there is no Service. Much of the ‘organised’ crime offences we see are not the hallmark of an idealistic organisation committed to a peaceful future, but an inevitable opportunism that springs from a criminal justice vaccum.