Policing debate opens up in West Belfast…

Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney faced his party’s critics directly at a public meeting last night called Policing: a bridge too far… at Conway Mill last night after making something of a startling entrance after the event had started. The tightly packed event drew people not simply from West Belfast, but as far as Strabane and South Armagh most apparently hungry for open debate.

Update: The Irish News story is worth checking out. This from Kearney:

“We have identified policing as a site of struggle and our focus has been through negotiations to ensure that the issue of policing is centre stage. Sinn Fein is determined to end political policing in this state. We haven’t endorsed the PSNI. Sinn Fein’s position on policing is very clear. We have a negotiation underway when that the negotiation is concluded the debate with out [our?] party will commence”.By all accounts there was standing room only. Though it seems as though the biggest problem with policing was less on accountability than the feeling of many in the audience that ‘national sovereignty’ was incompatible with signing up to the PSNI. As one commentator put it: a case of revolutionary vs reformist discourse.


  • Pete Baker


    “Though it seems as though the biggest problem with policing was less on accountability than the feeling of many in the audience that ‘national sovereignty’ was incompatible with signing up to the PSNI.”

    That would be “the problem with the peace process [which] may be much greater than has yet been realised”

  • DK

    I heard some of it on the radio. Amazing to see that some people are still living so far in the past! Comments along the lines that no policing in Ireland, even if reunified, would be acceptable unless there is a socialist republican Ireland. The news report said that the SDLP pulled out when they realised that the meeting was going to be so dissident-dominated.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed. I think there may have been a fear that the topics could have dipped into the ‘war option’, as was rumoured to have been on the ill-fated Toome meeting. In the event it seems to have been a well ordered, well chaired meeting.

  • fair_deal

    Interesting who the organisers were, Father Des Wilson and Padraigin Drinan, not the usual suspects.

  • Paul P

    Perceived “victory” over the StAA is going to come down to which of the two main parties can best mangage internal dissent.

  • brendan,belfast

    Father Des and Padraigin Drinan……not the usual suspects? maybe not round your way but i dont see them as middle of the road nationalists!

    it was funny to hear Gerry Kelly complaining about people being bussed to a meeting. full circle!

  • Yokel

    Aye I thought the woman who when interviewed said bring back the IRA was particularly great…..

  • kadenza

    Paul P,

    Absolutely spot on.

  • parcifal

    Am with SF, but have to agree that that lady’s comment was priceless. I fell offa ma chair laughing, now I finally realise how the extreme left of CIRA or 32CS, and the extreme right ( ATW – no powersharing ever with SF) are stark raving bonkers. I guess we have to be thankful for moderates like Paisley and McGuiness 🙂

  • Paul P

    “I guess we have to be thankful for moderates like Paisley and McGuiness”

    The vocal dissenters on the unionist side are all pretty much mavericks within their respective constituencies.

    Rev Ivan Foster, Bob McCartney and Michael Stone LOL

  • Mickhall

    Full marks to Declan for turning up at the meeting and arguing his Parties[SF] justification for taking responsibility for the PSNI.
    As Ms Price said, lets hope there are more of these forums, it is time SF realized they are not going to get the public support they need by using the old ways, or by making infantile comments like that about busing which came from Gerry Kelly.

    What is needed, is for meetings like that which occurred in Belfast last night to be held throughout the north, so that all nationalist political party’s and individuals can put their arguments for and against policing.

    That the SDLP and the leadership of SF hid behind the silly claim that the meeting was organized by dissidents hence there refusal to participate was cowardice of the first order, as it was clearly a meeting organized by respected figures from within the nationalist community.

    SF is trying to get this policy through behind the backs of the community by holding closed meeting for party members and senior members of the Ra. This is both wrong and a mistake as it is an issue that effects the whole community, thus all within that community should have there say..

    Mr Adams may by arm twisting be able to get his policing policy through his special Ard Fheis, but what is the use of that if he does not carry the community as a whole, or even get them to understand the reasons why he demands that the writ of the PSNI runs in a part of Ireland.

    Adams claims SF is a new type of progressive party, whilst to date on this issue his actions have been straight out of Tammany Hall.

  • Dec

    As one commentator put it: a case of revolutionary vs reformist discourse.

    Rather, a case of revolutionary vs revisionist discourse.

  • Glen Taisie

    Sounds like all the fun happened at the meeting in Gulladuff in early September.Yet no one is allowed to say anything.

  • brendan,belfast

    Mickhall writes, “it was clearly a meeting organized by respected figures from within the nationalist community”

    what respected figures? the INLA? Willie Gallagher? Des Wilson? catch a bloody grip.

  • deadmanonleave

    I’d say that Willie Gallagher and Des Wilson have a sight more respect in many republican communities than those in the Provisional Republican Movement who have turned their backs on what their members fought, killed and died for, and try and stifle any dissent from their current path.

    Fair play to Declan Kearney for turning up, would only have been better if the SDLP did too as that could have been mighty embarrassing to have seen the PRM hypocrisy exposed from both sides.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    It should be made clear that Declan Kearney did not turn up at this meeting alone. He was accompanied by 8 other members of SF representing a wide geographical spread across the northern 6 counties. Areas included were Belfast, Derry, Strabane, Sth Derry and Sth Down.
    It was therefore clear to see that virtually the entire Irp organisation from Derry and Strabane had been bussed in to burst into spontaneous applause at every contribution from Willie Gallagher.

    Many people, including mickhall have genuinely sought these types of forums in order to have a wide ranging discussion on the future of republicanism. The argument being that there is no such debate within SF and the members and the hundreds of thousands who vote for the party are unthinking robots and sheep.

    I think that it is also clear that such was the geographical spread of the SF contributors and the heavyweight makeup of the delegation that this was a leadership sanctioned contribution to the debate. The argument that the leadeship hid behind anything is therefore disingenuous

    What was clear is that Declan Kearney and the others dominated the entire debate. The plea by the chair for others to make a contribution, outside those of SF who sat at the front of the meeting merely confirmed this. The chair also deserves recognition for pointing out that the meeting was not simply a SF bashing exercise.
    However, the boorish behaviour of Marion Price during which she cackled loudly at every contribution from Declan Kearney was perhaps one of the most pathetic displays I have witnessed for a long time. Further, slapping a SF attendee for simply asking her to put all contributions through the chair was hardly the behaviour of someone sure of their argument.

    The meeting merely confirmed what I have long suspected, that outside their common hatred of SF these people have no rational argument or contribution to make.
    For example Francey Mackey, when questioned on the type of policing he wanted and how he was going to bring that policing about rambled on about making a submission on policing to the U.N..
    Willie Gallagher stating that they would never support policing until the establishment of a socialist republic was being unrealistic to the point of stupidity. Especially as he acknowledged the colloboration with policing already taking place on civil policing matters.

    The vocal opponents chose this are as their ground on which to confront SF. Having had time (20yrs in some cases) to rehearse their argument what was offered was a meaningless diatribe in rhetoric that has not an iota of public support. What was also clear is the unwillingness to put their arguments before the court of public opinion.

  • micky m

    God love you Mr Mc Larnon but you are full of it. So the 8 SF members you refer to drove their own cars, while the IRSP members took a bus? There were people from all over the north who came to that meeting, and no one was “bussed” in. If SF is that desperate to save face, claiming that people had to be bussed in for the debate, instead of the truth of the matter being that people are fed up and desperate for debate that they will travel for it…or do republicans not have that sort of commitment for something they believe in…did you not listen to the people there when they told you they were sick of the spin and wanted answers, not lies? Obviously not because here you are, lying still
    Marian Price smacking Seamus Finucane when he started to slabber at her is a bit for Finucane like the blonde woman smacking Michael Stone with his own gun, I wouldn’t be using that for sympathy Pat, really. Finucane not Marian is the one who comes out the worse for it. And you well know that he didn’t merely ask her to put all her contributions through the chair as politely as you present things. You do spin, spin, spin.
    I have to laugh on thinking on it, 8 SF members from all around the north (more like the goon squad), was all you can claim out of a standing room only crowd of about 250 people. Well fair play to you for turning up but you disgrace yourself with the lies you spew afterwards. Yous will never learn.

  • Yokel

    Aye Parcifal, she took the biscuit. Sounded uncannily like one of my aunts though……

    I think that whilst the Socialist Republicans etc may not have a realistic alternative, in a way they don’t have to at this moment and time. What they they have amongst those sympathetic to their position on policing is a ‘we can’t stomach this, scared cow’ and thats all they need at thsi stage.

    There will always be people who can’t stomach it because they can’t bend their minds to it. It’s the people who can shift that matter. Just like the DUP, if they can take the bulk of their elctorate, if not their parties, with them then they can move to persuade the doubters. Both parties votes are made up of a much wider group of people than their old cores that saw them as the second parties within their respective communities so they do have to look beyond the knne jerk reactions about issues such as policing (never!) and power sharing (never!).

  • Paul Rea

    Pat, was Curly Top amongst the eight? Would you care to outline his role in promoting the republican agenda?

  • parcifal

    aye Yokel,
    bend the mind, and mind the bend
    I’d be interested to know your view on which side has
    “the higher degree of tariff of difficulty” in making the dive from the high-board.
    : Republicans to Policing :
    : Unionists to Powersharing :

    The extremist snarlers on both sides have nothing to offer accept splashing and dismal belly-flops.

    oh welcome back Pat McLarnon, hope to see you cast your eye on Balrog soon, and throw the lads a few morsels 😉

  • deadmanonleave

    Will the Shinners be attending anything similar in the future? I can’t help being cynical and thinking that SF only turned up once they had word that the SDLP weren’t coming. It’d be interesting to hear your view on that.

  • Mickhall

    As always I welcomed reading your thoughts, some I agree with others I do not. Where I do agree with you, is that it is time for the so called ‘Dissidents’ who are willing to participate in the electoral process to do so. Even if this means beginning in a small way by standing a handful of candidates in the proposed elections which presumably will take place next year.

    Myself I feel SF have over policing walked into an open mantrap set by the British State and its allies in the north.
    What SF are going to do is something that few working class communities in say New York or London would even consider. That is take responsibility for a police force which when push comes to shove will not work in favor of their [WC] best interest.

    I am not suggesting working class people in these cities do not recognize the benefits of the rule of law, nor that they do not cooperate if the need arises with their local police.
    But they are well aware that the police represent the State and those whose best interest it serves. [Indeed in the US the Pinkertons set the agenda for almost all US city police forces.]

    To simplify this I will use this example, As many middle class youngsters take illegal drugs as working class kids. Yet the number of middle class kids who come before the courts for possession etc of drugs is miniscule compared to their working class peers. Now one does not to be a political psychologist to understand the reasons for this is two fold, one the pull middle class parents have, plus the fact the police do not target middle class youngsters in the same way they do working class kids, the reason being the police do not wish to ruffle their local middle class communities feathers by criminalizing their children, for they understand they are not in business to do so and if they do there will be comebacks.

    I could give countless similar examples which demonstrate whose interest the police serve, yet all I really need to do is write the following, “The Great UK Miners Strike 1984”, and if the penny does not drop it never will.

    Thus most of us working class people view the police as the better of two evils, i.e., it is better to have a half decent police force than no law on the streets what so ever. But this does not mean we turn our brains off and take responsibility for something we know is flawed due to the nature of the society we live in.

    For no matter how you come at SFs policy on policing, this is what SF are going to do. The Unionist Party’s have no problem taking responsibility for the police because since the inception of NI the police has served their interest, both class wise and due to their religion.

    Now NI still exists, perhaps and I mean perhaps after power sharing had been in place for ten years successfully, Republicans might just take responsibility for the police. But power sharing has not even begun yet.

    What SF are asking republicans to do is on a par with asking the black community of Watts, LA back in the 1960s to take responsibility for the LA police whilst it still was a segregated police force which daily did the bidding of the rich and powerful within LA. Of course they refused to do this, instead setting up political and civil organizations to monitor, etc the LAPD, until the stage was reached when the LA police was acceptable to the black communities political representatives. [which was something which took decades and has still not sunk down to the community as a whole and rightly so] This came about in a number of ways not least preferential recruitment etc.

    So as not to bore sluggerites what the Adamsite are doing with the police is putting the cart before the horse, if they truly believe the north can become a normal democratic society, then they have to prove this and not demand of Republicans that they take them on trust, for to be honest Mr Adams word has been devalued somewhat over recent years.

    The fact is this, the PSNI/RUC has a disgraceful record and they first need to gain the trust of the Nationalist working classes and until they earn that trust by deeds, in truth they have a bloody cheek demanding this community takes responsibility for their force.

    All the best.

  • IRSP

    Extracts from IRSP submission

    The position of the IRSP in regards to this issue goes beyond the basics of traditional republicanism. What would not have been conceivable in the past has today become a reality. The fact that some republicans, are being asked to support and endorse the PSNI and the judicial system, has become a bitter pill to swallow, within both pro-GFA and anti-GFA republicanism.

    For Republicans the PSNI can never be accepted as a legitimate and fully representational police service purely because they are the institution of British law in occupied Ireland.

    They serve the Queen and not the people. They uphold British parliamentarian law in this land. They enforce British rule in our island!!

    The PSNI, like any other police force in the capitalist world, protects property before people and act as an instrument of the ruling class.

    To become representational of the working class of Ireland, any Police Service would be set up by the people and for the people. This can only be completed and implemented within the parameters of a 32 County Socialist Workers Republic Any such Police Service would be supportive of the needs of our communities, the working class; it must be biased to the neo-liberal agendas of any given country.

    A genuine police force of the people would not favour the investor, the landlord, the oil magnates, the Coca Cola’s, the Sellafields, Multi-National Corporation or the rich at the detriment of the poor and the working class. It would exist to uphold public order, to protect the inhabitants of this island from those who would wish to exploit them, and to protect the needs of the working class from the greed of capitalism.

    What we stand for

    Until we have this system in place, until we have the abolition of partition, until we have the complete removal of the British stranglehold on this islands economy. Until we have the complete removal of the British militarily from this land, until the foreign monarchy imposed upon our people is removed and we are declared a 32 County Socialist Workers Republic, then we are not in a position as republican socialists to accept anything less. Therefore the IRSP will refuse to give any kind of legitimacy to a political police force, the PSNI, or to a corrupt British judiciary. These are the fundamental basics for republican socialists.

    Even if partition ended tomorrow support for an all-Ireland police force under a capitalist regime, would that be a bridge too far for republican socialists. Indeed it would!! We only have to look at how the Gardai behaved in the Shell to Sea protests in County Mayo and to whose interests they were really protecting.

    But for now let us deal with some of the realities that republicans are asked to face and accept:

    Support and endorsement of the PSNI

    Support and endorsement of a British judicial system that is anti republican and anti working class

    Support and endorsement of a prison service that brutalised republicans for years and even today refuses to recognise the political nature of republican prisoners.

    We have been told by the leaderships of both Provisional Sinn Fein and the SDLP that they are currently negotiating the ending of political policing and the removal of MI5. Does anyone here really believe that the British government will capitulate and allow North of Ireland politicians, never mind republican politicians, to have full control of the policing and judicial system? The British will never allow that to happen!!

    Political policing will always remain with us whilst partition exists!!!

    The raison d’etre of the PSNI, regardless of whatever cosmetic changes are affected, is primarily, the maintenance and protection of the States interests and enforcement of British parliamentarian law in this land.

    To sum up we must keep our republican integrity intact and refuse to endorse the judicial system and the PSNI as the legitimate legal forces of the North of Ireland.


  • Pat Mc Larnon


    TY but this is only a fleeting visit as I am up to my eyes in other stuff, though I still follow the site daily.


    After talking to some of the people that attended they were of the opinion that all such forums should be attended. They jokingly appreciated the opportunity the other organisations afforded them in allowing them to educate their members on the SF position.
    On the point of the SDLP not attending and the reason SF attended I honestly don’t know. But I believe this is the only meeting of its sort organised so far. I would imagine given the quality of the debate the SDLP will be enticed to attend any further gatherings.
    Although, will there be any further debates? Is there any point moving the same personnel around from meeting to meeting?

    An observation of mine was that outside of never, never, never, I got the impression that there is little or no discussion in the other groupings on this issue. Declan Kearney was very forensic and was well into the minutae of his argument, something that was sadly lacking from the other contributors. Heckling about spin and lying only goes so far

    A further point of interest was the friction between the 32SM and IRSP highlighted by the exchange between Mackey and Ruddy. Even in anti Shinner land all in the garden is not rosey.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    many points to agree with there mick and sadly lacking from the debate on Monday night.

    As Kearney pointed out nothing has been agreed to and the reason many cumann etc do not want or feel the neeed to be briefed on the current standing of the negotiations.

    I prefer to see what SF eventually are prepared to settle for and whether that can be built upon, it is then i will make my own decision re policing.

    I’m off, so happy Xmas to one and all

  • deadmanonleave

    Pat,It’s no surprise that at public meetings the likes of McKay and Ruddy disagree, it’s the very essence of political discourse, and it’s a shame that a party as principled in the past as SF has railroaded its members into where they are now.

    I don’t think that anyone on the Anti-GFA Republican side has ever claimed any sort of unity of ideas, what there is is a lack of faith in the P$F direction and a thirst for debate.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that $F attending this was almost a confessional act. I’d be really surprised if they turn up to anything else.

  • willie

    ”It was therefore clear to see that virtually the entire Irp organisation from Derry and Strabane had been bussed in to burst into spontaneous applause at every contribution from Willie Gallagher.”So says Pat mc Larnon.

    Obviously you know nothing about the membership of the IRSP in Derry or Strabane and if you had have attnded our recent commemorations at both locations you would realise that only a small percentage of the membership from both these areas attended the debate in Conway Mill. None of us were ‘bussed’in.

    Also PAT it was never stated that the IRSP would never support ‘policing’until the establishment of a 32 County Socialist Republic. What was stated was ”….Until we have this system in place, until we have the abolition of partition, until we have the complete removal of the British stranglehold on this islands economy. Until we have the complete removal of the British militarily from this land, until the foreign monarchy imposed upon our people is removed and we are declared a 32 County Socialist Workers Republic, then we are not in a position as republican socialists to accept anything less. Therefore the IRSP will refuse to give any kind of legitimacy to a political police force, the PSNI, or to a corrupt British judiciary. These are the fundamental basics for republican socialists.”

  • Ben

    Pat McLarnon says ”It was therefore clear to see that virtually the entire Irp organisation from Derry and Strabane had been bussed in to burst into spontaneous applause at every contribution from Willie Gallagher.”

    Many ex-PIRA prisioners I noticed burst into spontaneous applause at the IRSPs contribution. I also noticed Declan Kearney clapping at the end of Willie’s speech.

  • deadmanonleave

    It’s about time we saw some people backing up what they’ve said. Willie’s spot on in my view, it’d be good to see more posts from an anti-GFA perspective.

  • marty

    and we are declared a 32 County Socialist Workers Republic

    Out of interest Willie, how do you reckon this is gonna come about? Are all those people in the 26 counties going to wake up one morning and decide a worker’s paradise is preferable to the Celtic Tiger?

    You’re havin a laugh if you believe that.

  • Reader

    Mickhall: As many middle class youngsters take illegal drugs as working class kids. Yet the number of middle class kids who come before the courts for possession etc of drugs is miniscule compared to their working class peers.
    Too cynical. Try the following: (1) Middle class kids are less likely to deal or steal to fund their habit. Mere ‘posession’ is not likely to get anyone targetted (2) If you think the middle classes are treated too leniently, then get some working class people onto the policing boards.

  • ingram

    Pat McLarnon quote”I’m off, so happy Xmas to one and all

    Thanks Pat, much appreciated mate and happy Xmas to you and your family.


    PS.Interesting times ahead for the boys. LOL

  • Jocky

    Heay, maybe I’m a bit slow on SF position here, but it’s gone from, never joining the PSNI, to you accpet the concept of a police service but not yet, maybe sometime in the future. FFS why not just join now? oh that’s right, you dont want to look like the admit the SDLP were right all along. FFS Id have more respect for the shinners if they’d come out and say it rather than the endless procession of spin.

    Mick it was ahrdly a man trap, it’s the logical outworkings of the process and has been on the cards for a long time.

    Mick, so your arguement against the polis are they aren’t hard enough on middle class kids taking drugs, OK join the board and get them to crack down on it. or you could whinge.

    the endless countless exmaples are the miners strike, something that happened 22 years ago! what is the relevence? patently the penny will never drop with you.

    You even admit it’s the better of 2 evils but still dont accept it.

    As for your second analogy, nonsense. How is the PSNI a segragated police force? Are the 20-30% Catholics just not the right sort of Catholics to middle class. How is it not accountable, oh right cause shinners do not want it to be. so you whinge about that as well rather than doing something about it.

    And then your most stunning piece of logic, you will not accept the PSNI till it is molded in your image, but your refuse to participate untuil it is caast so. Please explain how this transformation will happen without participation. Magic fairy dust?

    If you had signed up when the SDLP did do you think you would be closer to this aim than you are now? It’s a no brainer.

    The only people who have a cheek are folk like yourself. Remember 1998? you signed up to it, get on with it, parity of esteem, legitimacy of the state, etc, etc, get on with it.

    I can understand GA et al doing the song and dance routine, he cant just come out and say, do you know what lads the SDLP was right all along and I’m going along what they’ve said all along. he’s got to keep the useful fools happy.

    But for anyone else to buy it or even complain that he’s giving too much is staggering.

  • willie

    Declan stated that PSF haven’t endorsed the PSNI or the judicary yet Adams stated the PSF have given qualified support to the St.Andrews agreement which does endorse the PSNI and judicary. This endorsement is in exchange for sharing power with the DUP and nothing to do with our communities needing proper policing.

    Endorsement of both is legitamising britains right to remain in the 6 counties though PSF have done this anyway with the endorsement of the GFA. The Unionist veto is enshrined in the GFA which PSF accept and endorse so it should not come as any surprise when the PSNI, judicial system, including Diplock courts and prisons are also endorsed.

  • DK

    “we are declared a 32 County Socialist Workers Republic” versus “we all join a free p theocracy”. Both are ideological relics of history, the former since the Berlin Wall collapsed and the latter since the reformation. Such idealism would be noble if they weren’t so heavily armed. When they go out to shoot the police, they usually miss and it is those of us in the middle that get hit. And make no mistake that the logical end of “we will never accept the police” is some sort of conflict with whatever the police are. Unless, of course, as marty astutely pointed out, the population decide that they’d rather be in a 32 County Socialist Workers Republic than a celtic tiger in the EU. Gathering of dissidents – gathering of dangerous wankers more like.

  • Click on the link below to access a news article by éirígí on the policing debate entitled ‘Policing – a bridge too far for republicans’ that was held in West Belfast’s Conway Mill on Monday 27th November 2006


  • Mickhall


    Thanks for this, excellent analysis from éirígí, well worth a read imo..


    Enjoyed your post but unfortunately do not have the time to reply as you raised so many points. On the issue of illegal drugs, far from wanting the police to crack down harder on middle class youngsters the reverse is true, in that I wish to see an end to criminalizing youngsters from any background for taking drugs.

    Indeed I would like to see a public enquiry that looked at the viability of legalizing certain drugs that are now illegal. Myself I feel there is a good argument for legalizing both E’s and Heroin. Far from being a deadly dangerous drug the latter is one of the least harmful of the Cat A narcotics as the statistics prove. It was legal throughout Europe including the UK up until the 20th century and was used by a majority of the populastion in one form or another for a host of every day illnesses. It was only made illegal due to the pressure brought by the USA, who back then was on a mad rush to prohibition.

    Drugs like cocaine may be more problematic due to the fact that regular use inevitably makes the users psychotic and thus they can become a danger to the general public.[see a certian guy who was up at Stormont last week] As to Cannabis, in all honesty I doubt that many people would use it if it were not illegal as it is a comparatively weak substance.

    The two most dangerous drugs as far as health is concerned are alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legal, thus all that the politicians and NHS drugs mafia spout about illegal drugs are little more than foolish nonsense motivated by self interest.

    If society decides to prohibit the use of certain substances they should include those that are the most dangerous, that they refuse to even consider doing so makes all the political wining about protecting the general public hogwash.

    Regards to you both.