Who ya gonna call?

Newton Emerson outlines one area of police performance that everyone should want to make Sir Hugh Orde and the PSNI accountable on, their investigation of murders.

  • joeCanuck

    I’m sorry folks.
    Statistics don’t tell the whole picture.
    Mt sister-in-law was abducted and murdered a few years ago.
    You wouldn’t believe the hoops that the PSNI went through to eventually find her body (assisted by both the gardai and the RAF) and to find and convict her murderer.
    They were an extremely professional organization, totally up to date in the latest forensic science and fully informed and supported the family throughout the whole ordeal.
    The Patten report laid the foundation for this transformation from an arm of one particular political party to a truly professional police force of whom we can be proud.
    Sir Hugh Orde deserves our gratitude for how he has led this transformation.
    None of my family, some of whom are SF supporters, have any problem with giving the police all of our support.

  • miss fitz

    With the greatest respect, your story probably underlines the point Newton was making.

    In your case, the multi agency approach failed abysmally and the killer was known to have flaunted his restrictions on a daily basis. To be honest, the fact he was ever released in the first place on 50% remission is a shameful fact.

    It suited the authorities to find this killer, indeed I would go so far as to say they knew he had to come off the streets as a matter of total urgency having killed such a kind and decent woman.

    But when it doesnt suit the powers that be for political or other reasons, well Newt’s point stands, the impetus is not there and we are left with a double standard in enforcement.

  • joeCanuck

    Miss Fitz

    I understand that totally. When it comes down to dirty politics and multiple levels of informers/double agents etc, it’s an ugly ugly world.
    But I was referring to “normal” police work, which none of us can do without.
    SF talk about non-political policing and perhaps we have a little way to go on that. But we have come a huge way along the road.
    There has been an enormous transformation which, of course, is still unfolding.


  • Henry94

    The article is a fairly damming indictment of the PSNI. But at least they are not actively involved with murder themselves as so many of their predecessors were.

    What is clear is that the current Police Board has don a poor job and the PNSI leadership has done a poor job. Lets not forget their failure to solve the biggest bank robbery in Irish history.

    I think while Sinn Fein are outside the Police Board the SDLP in particular felt they had to talk up the police. When a full representative board is established there will be no hiding place for the CC. He will have to do a better job than has been done so far.

  • Crataegus


    I agree that there are improvements and that we need the PSNI to be effective, but some colleagues have had serve problems from the local riff raff and there is a major problem in relation to the interrelationship of politics and policing and the potential that previous cooperation and collusion have compromised the position of some. Indeed there is a perception that some have been placed above the law, and the agreement itself places pragmatism before justice.

    Recently we saw very odd positions manifest in the changing treatment at court of various UDA types. To me it showed a continuing problem and a fair degree of hypocrisy. I for one am not at all sure that this issue is resolved. It is a difficult position that we need to move forward from, but it is leaving many innocent people with no justice and very exposed. It also throws a poor light on the political ideological mumbo jumbo currently doing the rounds.

    I for one would like to see greater progress and I thought the article quite to the point.

  • joeCanuck

    I don’t think that any of us disagree fundamentally.
    There have been improvements but there still is a ways to go.
    The question is “Can you better enact improvements from the inside or to sit sniping from the outside?”
    It looks like SF are now thinking that it would be better from the inside.
    I am not a member of SF so I can’t tell them what to do.
    But I am entitled to a personal opinion and it is obvious what that is.
    A civilized society cannot exist without an independent police service. To be independent, there has to be civilian oversight.
    “Oversight”, not control. That’s what we currently have. There is no excuse for any political party not to participate in that oversight role.

  • miss fitz

    Well Joe, I think the capacity has always been present to solve crimes that need solving.

    When my daughter was run down by ‘settled travellers’ a couple of years ago, I experienced first hand what it feels like to deal with the Police as a victim. The Police only came to visit my house after I wrote a letter to the Irish News, they werent even going to interview her, despite very serious injuries.

    To this date, we have never had a second phone call, visit or letter from the PSNI. Indeed, a request for a letter from the Officer at the scene went unheeded despite about 40 phone calls requesting this letter for Queens.

    In that situation, you got the feeling the police were merely recording the facts. I heard later that our case became ‘political’ in that a video of the attack was made on the local Sinn Fein CCTV and was mentioned at Council. Because SF had the video, the Police never asked for it. None of this was ever relayed to me by anyone in an official capacity.

    So, my point remains. THe capacity is there, the will and drive is absent unless it suits.

  • joeCanuck

    Miss Fitz

    I feel truly sorry about that.
    My heart goes out to you.
    I cannot understand the different treatment given to your family compared to what my family got.
    I mentioned earlier that we have some ways to go, it looks like we have a long way to go.
    Love and best wishes,

  • miss fitz

    Cheers Joe. She was forced to take a year out in the end, but has returned to Queens and just sat the exams for the Legal Institute.

    Kind regards to yourself and family for Christmas, and hope y’all are keeping warm

  • Rubicon

    A very interesting article from Newton. It suggests that reform is a long way from complete and is not only related to SF support for policing. Yet, little of this is presented as a problem by the ‘law & order’ DUP.

    SF support for policing will be a significant move forward and I wish Gerry A. & Martin M. well in attempting to bring that about. Basic principles of justice were temporarily set aside by the GFA. I remember it being the most difficult issue for me when voting for the Agreement. Temporarily setting aside principles didn’t seem possible without causing long-term damage. Newton seems to be bearing out that point.

    The ‘temporary’ lapse in justice must come to an end soon. It is this – and not the relatively small amounts of money spent on paying a suspended Assembly (that the media keep focussing on) that is the most damaging component of the stalemate. It is the stalemate (or the UK Government’s handling of it) that undermines justice. Do the DUP recognise this?

    The upside to SF failing to endorse policing or the DUP supporting power-sharing is the collapse of their political credentials. With that collapse, interference in the passage of justice can only diminish. Such a scenario would be a poor 2nd to the SF & the DUP restoring devolution and allowing the 3rd estate (the judiciary) to get on with its business in a way that puts ‘creating the right political environment’ to history as a bad memory.

    Good luck to all the politicians who will need to take risks. Those who return to their fox-holes need to answer the points Newton raises. Would it be too much to hope that the media would put such questions to the nay-sayers on both sides?

  • Crataegus

    Miss Fitz

    Unfortunately your experience is far from unique and it would appear some are much worse. I was going to say more but perhaps suffice to say some of it is hard to believe unless you have actually experienced it. It is one of the reasons why I decided to spend more time outside NI. I don’t have to suffer nonsense. I am fortunate and can easily move others are stuck in what must be hell.

    I truly hope things improve. How exactly we get past the legacy of history and move forward with a clean slate and with confidence that we are not disposable pawns in a bigger game, or unfortunate inconveniences, I just don’t know. Do we need a truth and reconciliation commission? But of course we will never get to the bottom of much of it as it would be politically embarrassing, but without truth how do you have trust?


    It is the stalemate (or the UK Government’s handling of it) that undermines justice. Do the DUP recognise this?

    I agree, but it would also help if the UK stopped pretending to be a neutral body and started to admit to some of its past deeds and policies on security.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    What we have now is a very inexperienced and undermanned ( for the lawless situation here, that is) policeforce. The baby got thrown out with the bathwater in an attempt to get rid of the experienced policemen and have 50/50 policing.

    So we have an inffectual reformed policeforce is that what we really wanted.

  • Quaysider

    JoeCanuck – I must respectively disagree with your assertion that statistics don’t tell the whole story. They do tell the whole story; your case only tells one story. A mere 17 successful convictions out of 215 paramilitary-related murders since 1994 is unarguable proof of political manipulation of the justice system.

  • Quaysider

    ‘Respectfully’, not ‘respectively’…

  • Rubicon

    Fair points Crataegus – but I don’t think unionists or nationalists consider the UK Gov impartial. It’s only accolade in that regard is that it has invited criticism from both.

    I suspect that the process moving on may well bring better co-operation from the UK Gov on discovery – partly by being required to do so and partly through disinterest. It will embarrass the UK Gov to admit the reasons for disabling the justice system – but will cause little upset to its power position. I’m not so sure that the revelations would have little effect locally.

    Having survived ‘the troubles’ and the thwarting of justice – I’m not in a position to comment on how we best deal with these problems. Victims need to be listened to (and I use the broadest definition of ‘victim’).

    In signing up to the GFA we accepted the setting aside of principles of justice – for political expedient reasons. For most, we signed up to a great deal more than we bargained for – but isn’t that what comes from setting aside principles?

    The objectives of the political expediency may only now be delivered. If so, I hope that’s the end to ignoring murder – from whatever source. It’s less the past UK Gov involvement than the end to their interference in justice that concerns me.

    A NI with devolved justice powers will encounter significant problems. The likely impasse between unionism and nationalism will likely allow the judiciary get on with their job in a way that hasn’t been possible before. The sooner the better.

  • joeCanuck


    You must have missed my post #3.
    I alluded in it that, in the case of the “murky” world, there is a lot left to be answered.
    But, we cannot be denied “normal” policing in the case of “normal” crimes.
    The politicos are responsible for the “extranormal” crimes and they will never allow themselves to be held responsible.(e.g. the special inquiries law).
    We must move on, as much as it sticks in most of our throats.

  • Quaysider

    The problem with NI’s ‘murky’ murders is that they don’t always have ‘murky’ victims who can be dimissed as collatoral damage by us ‘normal’ people. Gerard Lawlor is a case in point, and it increasingly looks as if Thomas Devlin will be another case in point. The fallacy of a Chinese wall between political murders and ‘ordinary decent murders’ is just another example of how interference in the justice system has warped this society.

    All murders must be addressed equally by the forces of the state, or the state has no legitimate claim to be the sole arbiter or justice. Now that SF seems have learnt that lesson, let’s hope the government hasn’t forgotten it.

  • joeCanuck


    I hope I didn’t leave the impression that the “murky” victims got what was coming to them. We both can name many others apart fron the two that you mentioned.
    My point was that the politicos will protect themselves no matter what.
    It’s horrible. But we , as “normal” citizens are somewhat helpless in the face of the power of the state.
    As I said, grrrrrrrrr.

  • Crataegus


    It’s less the past UK Gov involvement than the end to their interference in justice that concerns me.

    Fair point and I agree, but the problems with the legacy and the bad experience that some have suffered is an impediment to normalisation. A very substantial number of people feel aggrieved and it will be a long time before they have faith in the law. Worse than that I would guess a disproportionate number of those aggrieved are in the business community. After years of buying of thugs, a practice that continues, there is a fair degree of cynicism about. Ask yourself if you were renovating a few houses on the Shankill and were approached for a donation would you rush round to the nearest Police Station or would you just pay up? Personally I would advise great caution and give due consideration to recent developments and make very sure what camp you are dealing with before deciding to be the hero.

    It would be good to see progress as this is a corrosive poison. For myself I don’t trust the police at all and I doubt if I ever will. Yet I would be the first to say we need a PSNI that has the support and confidence of the whole community. Sad really but some things cannot be forgotten.

  • Practical

    Ok so the police organisation in Northern ireland isn’t perfect. Nothing is. Any one of you who want to change it should join and do so. At least we should be mature enough not to criticise (or indeed praise) the organisation as a whole based on our own personal experience.

    We have been through a period of murder and mayhem which everyone knows has led to an extraordinarily violent society. It takes things a long time to be fixed in these circumstances and really, all things considered is it any worse than anywhere else?