“it was a mistake to organise a meeting without talking to people in the local community..”

A meeting of the South Belfast sub-committee of the Belfast District Policing Partnership was abandoned this evening after a protest by around 20 people [Adds up to 30 in this report]. And with Sinn Féin Cllr Bernice Swift still, as far as I’m aware, “suspended without prejudice” – and with other recent events in mind – some interesting comments, in the BBC report, from Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey, MLA, who sits on the Policing Board.

“Some of them (the protesters), would have been former Sinn Fein supporters, some would never have supported Sinn Fein,” he said.

“This was as much a protest against us as a party engaging with policing as it was against the police.

“We have a mandate from people in the Markets to engage, but I feel it was a mistake to organise a meeting without talking to people in the local community.”

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  • harry

    are public protests not a form of democratic expression?

  • Tkmaxx

    Chickens and roost?

  • nineteensixtyseven

    Not when it disrupts a meeting set up because of a mandate from the electorate.

  • cut the bull

    “We have a mandate from people in the Markets to engage, but I feel it was a mistake to organise a meeting without talking to people in the local community.”

    I find this strange how can you have such a mandate, as mandates are usually given or taken for granted in some cases as a reult of electoral success and how and who the communty votes for.

    When people throuhout the north were canvassed at the last election Sinn Féin was not engaging in any shape or form with the PSNI.

    So therefore I would ask is there really a mandate for this.

  • nineteensixtyseven

    How about the January Ard Fheis, prior to the March Assembly elections?

  • harry

    Not when it disrupts a meeting set up because of a mandate from the electorate

    well according to alex maskey, having a mandate is not sufficient, but the people should have been consulted.??

    is sf going to ask the people every time they want to have meeting with the cops

  • Shawn

    20 people isnt much of a protest

    Flea on an elephants ass comes to mind

  • Pete Baker

    “20 people isnt much of a protest”

    Shawn

    Generally speaking that’s true.

    But it’s also why Alex Maskey’s comments about the need to talk to “people in the local community” before holding these meetings are interesting.

    And that’s before consideration of those other recent events.

  • harry

    shawn your right.

    reminds of the level of people protesting british rule in ireland in 1916.

    or the amount men in the IRA’s 1950s border campaign.

    fleas on the elelphant’s ass. must remember that expression

  • hercules

    ‘Taste of medicine’ comes to mind.

  • Garibaldy

    The idea that the DPP’s should have to have talks with local residents before holding meetings is laughable. Maskey saying that only adds to the problems. People who don’t like the current political arrangements should not be allowed to stop its bodies meeting.

  • veritas

    well Alex if you burn your arse you sit on the blister

  • ulsterfan

    Perhaps SF now regret endorsing public meetings because they are directly identified with support for the police.
    They would prefer to work behind the scenes and thus avoid their open acceptance.

  • DK

    Was this DPP just for the markets? Or was it for all the people of South Belfast?

  • Red Diesel

    The fascinating thing about this fracas was that the front line of people doing the shouting was solidly Provo. Not dissidents, unless they have jumped in the last couple of weeks. Some of them are paid employees of the local development association. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have political views and express them, but the irony is that they were hired by a committee with a strong SF component. Most of their anger was directed at Alex Maskey, for whom all of them have worked in the recent past.

  • west belfast resident

    Priests getting robbed, 82 year old robbed in west belfast, death drivers terrorising good people etc etc etc.

    It seems to me that the greatest oppression of nationalist areas are hoodlums and thugs. Like it or not the only way to get these people of the streets is to work with the PSNI. You cant ride two horses.

    Can someone tell me why I shouldnt cooperate with the police to confront the likes who killed Harry Holland? Its easy to say NO, it takes leadership to say YES.

  • Big Bird

    The protesters numbered 3 or 4 men and about 4 women with a group of young kids. They represented one or two families. The personal abuse of Sinn Fein members, indicates that they are not indeed connected to sinn fein(anymore). I would say it was safe to assume they were dissidents.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Here’s the deal. It was decided by the South Belfast Sub Group that we should have meetings in various places where there are specific policing problems. Rather than choosing easy options and going for hotels in non-residential areas we want to enable real engagement between local communities on the ground with the PSNI.

    I have argued for and hope to have a meeting set up soon in Sandy Row/Donegall Pass and Annadale in coming months. The whole point of DPP’s is to allow people to engage with the PSNI and if they feel they are getting a bad level of service to hold them to account. For people who claim to have such problems with the police, this meeting was an ideal opportunity for them to come along an air their opinions. Instead the not only did not do that they also prevented other people from doing so.

    The night before the meeting a letter was circulated signed by “Former Republican Prisoners” accussing the DPP of attempting to use the people of the Markets and railing against the PSNI as, amongst other things, an “anti-working class” organisation. I have a copy of this letter in my possession and am willing to share it with anyone who wants to see it.

    I arrived at the meeting along with Pat McCarthy at around 1840hrs and we were met outside by some protestors holding A4 sized posters. I couldn’t read what was on them but they had clearly been knocked up on someones PC.

    I should say at this point that Alex Maskey also circulated a letter in the area (a copy of which I also have in my possession) stating that he was attending the meeting along with his colleagues to hold the PSNI to account. It seems strange to me that Alex Maskey should now be attacking the apparent lack of consultation regarding the venue, when he himself helped to advertise the meeting and said he would be going to it. To me this seems like back-peddling.

    The meeting was unable to commence beacuse of persistant and aggressive heckling by about 20 people who were accompanied by kids. As this heckling went on I witnessed a man approach Pat McCarthy and jab his finger into Pat’s chest repeatedly shouting about the PSNI being a force of occupation. I myself was told by an individual that if the meeting turned violent I would have “only myself to blame”. It was after about 20 minutes of this and for the safety of our DPP staff that the decision was taken to abandon the meeting.

  • pat

    It is becoming more farcical by the day!

    Alex Maskey & Sinn Fein are now riding more horses than frankie dettori.

  • Garibaldy

    Fair play to Christopher for providing a detailed account. Much appreciated. Hopefully others will follow suit.

  • Big Bird

    Christopher Stalfords piece is a pretty accurate account of how things developed.

    However i have to take exception to….

    “It seems strange to me that Alex Maskey should now be attacking the apparent lack of consultation regarding the venue, when he himself helped to advertise the meeting and said he would be going to it. ”

    It is not Sinn Fein’s job to promote/advertise the DPP meetings. Thats the job of the DPP. Sinn Fein sent a letter from Alex to Markets residents, making them aware of the meeting (as no consultation with the community, from the DPP, had taken place). Following this, a letter was sent by “ex-prisoners” (2 individuals in the Markets), and the protest was arranged. The protest was organised by a small group of dissidents, from the Markets and the short strand that amounted to, in essence, 3 families. They do not represent the residents of the Markets.

    The DPP and its chairman, who is a local representative, should have consulted with the community.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Big Bird

    When I said he helped to advertise, I meant in the sense that he raised the profile of the event by circulating a letter regarding it. The event was advertised in The Irish News, The Belfast Telegraph, The News Letter and I think in the Daily Mirror also. When you say the community should have been “consulted” what form would this consultation have taken? Pat McCarthy has said he spoke to Mass-goers at church about the idea of a meeting and recieved a positive response. Or are you referring to community groups in the area? Given that many of the people doing the shouting last night hold office in the local community groups just what sort of a response do you think would have been recieved from them?

    You seem to be contradicting yourself also. If these people don’t speak for the community and have no support within the community as you state, why should they be consulted about any event being held in any community centre which the council owns?

    I suspect that Alex Maskey is trying to cover his back in terms of keeping this element on side by criticsing the planning of the event and as a consequence Pat McCarthy, but quite frankly I think to do so is both unfair to the DPP Sub Group (which 2 Sinn Fein councillors serve on) and showing a lack of leadership. A council colleague was physically threatened and I was told I would be responsible for any violence visited upon me. How can you possibly make any sort of excuses for that?

  • Big Bird

    No excuses whatsoever for anyone threatening violence at last nights meetings. Full stop! What i was trying to say, is that those disruptive individuals in the meeting, did not represent the community of the Markets. Yes, one or two may be part of local community groups, but are a small minority, within those groups. Perhaps, if the groups had been consulted, a protest would have still been liklely, but they could not have claimed that they were not consulted. They would have moved their focus onto other issues they have (anti sinn fein agenda, etc)…but thats a different matter! Perhaps, talking to mass goers, is not the best way for public bodies, such as the DPP, to consult with the local community!

  • Garibadly

    Again, why should a public body like the DPP have to consult with local residents when it wants to hold a meeting? As Christopher Stalford has shown, the meeting was advertised and people had the chance to voice their concerns in advance. As for speaking to mass goers, you’re right, but the same could be said about many community groups and local residents’ associations, which are often self-appointed. And very clearly politically linked. In the past we have seen PSF disrupt meetings of similar bodies like this, even though the majority of the people in the areas concerned wanted accountable policing and were supportive of the PSNI, especially in regard to ‘ordinary’ crime. That this is so is demonstrated by the fact that PSF followed public opinion and supported policing.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Big Bird

    Now you are deliberatly misrepresenting me. I never said that consulting Mass-goers represented community consultation, I merely sought to tease out what exact form you think this “consultation” should take. It’s apparent now after the event that SF are trying to re=position themselves. I think that’s shaemful given the treatment that was meted out not only to Pat McCarthy but also to 2 SF Councillors who serve on the SB Sub Group.

  • QUB Student

    Is the whole point of a DPP meeting not to be an opportunity to consult with the local community?

    So why would the DPP sub-group consult about hold a consultation meeting?

    Alex Maskey certainly seems to be back-tracking. I have seen the letter he sent out and it is clearly trying to encourage people to attend. Now he says there wasn’t enough consultation… Is he admitting that he no longer has any influence in the Markets?

  • nmc

    SF consulting with their electorate? LOL ROFL Guffaw.

    SF is a steamroller, and could not care less about the views of the people who put them where they are today. They care only about the people who will keep them there.

  • QUB Student

    It should be remembered that this meeting was for all of South Belfast – not just the Markets.

    It is a disgrace that this sort of behaviour should have been direct at Councillors and DDP members in a Belfast City Council facility.

  • QUB Student

    *DPP Members

  • harry

    The personal abuse of Sinn Fein members, indicates that they are not indeed connected to sinn fein(anymore). I would say it was safe to assume they were dissidents.

    Posted by Big Bird on Nov 20, 2007 @ 11:23 AM

    any good republican worth their salt will remember the line from Wolfe Tone….

    “Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter..”

    seemingly the republicanism of gerry adam’s sinn fein wants to silence the dissenters

  • west belfast resident

    The people were asked in March to endorse SF’s position on policing. They did this in their thousands. Now what exactly did people think the January ard fheis was all about? SF signed up to support policing in the North – so why are some people so surprised when they do this?

    Now the dissenters may not like this but they at least have to respect it. I respect those who disagree with supporting the police but I also disagree with their analysis of the situation.

    Harry – I assume you are from a republican part of belfast – one question – how would you deal with the deathdrivers, rapists, child moleters, murderers et al that are plaguing our communities?

  • Frank Sinistra

    Now all future meetings will be packed by SF Loyalists forced along by their local structures. At least that’s one positive; making them face up to their decision and actively and individually welcome British law into their communities.

    And all this ‘dissident’ crap by SF spinners above is rubbish. May as well call them ‘baby killers’ when all they are doing is holding the views and using the tactics that SF were using not that long ago. But I suppose if you throw enough muck….you end up covered in crap from head to toe.

  • truth,hurts

    WEST BELFAST RESIDENT

    Firstly sinn fein’s position on supporting policing and joing the DPP has not been proven correct yet. There is an argument comming from Republicans right across the North that Sinn Fein over exagerated the powers that the policing board and Dpp’s would have and claiming that they were a forum to hold the police to account. I believe that people are starting to see through this and are only now realising that these are nothing more than toothless bodys. I have read different news articles where recent sinn fein cllrs joining the Dpp’s in different council areas have stated they are going in to hold the police to Account? this is either complete lack of knowledge and understanding by the sinn fein cllrs on the role and remit of the Dpp OR Deliberate lies on there part.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Well the special Ard Fheis (which was called unconsituitionally) motion which authorised the Ard Chomairle to move on things like DPPs was never met in the eyes of anything other than a fantasist:

    The Ard Chomhairle recommends: That this Ard Fheis endorses the Ard Chomhairle motion. That the Ard Chomhairle is mandated to implement this motion only when the power-sharing institutions are established and when the Ard Chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred.

    That’s the nonsense that was sold on the doors, that got the mandate. A load of crap about being satisfied devolution of P&J;, would occur.

    Something that ain’t happened. Something that for many Republicans regardless of mandates means the supporting of British law in Ireland.

    Well done those who came out in numbers to oppose, while next to no-one came out naturally in support without enforced party discipline.

  • tweedledee

    “The Ard Chomhairle recommends: That this Ard Fheis endorses the Ard Chomhairle motion. That the Ard Chomhairle is mandated to implement this motion only when the power-sharing institutions are established and when the Ard Chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred.”

    The Ard Fheis simply passed the buck, otherwise they would have instructed the Ard Chomhairle to come back to the Ard Fheis. Keep passing motions like that there may as well not be an Ard Fheis. You get dictatorship when you allow it, and in this case vote for it.

  • Pete Baker

    Well, I believe I pointed that out at the time..

    Not least because Sinn Féin have been emphasising the conditionality of that motion – which passes the decision-making power on policing from an Ard Fheis to the Ard Chomhairle – in their attempts to persuade sceptical party members, as in this report on Martin McGuinness’s comments, conditions which are also noted in the Irish Times[subs req]

  • Market Trader

    Atleast Chris Stalford had the nerve to attend the meeting in the Markets – the only Unionist elected representative in attendance.

    This is something which a few of my neighnours have remarked on – he might even get a few votes if he’s lucky.

  • South Belfast Resident

    “seemingly the republicanism of gerry adam’s sinn fein wants to silence the dissenters ”

    Posted by harry on Nov 20, 2007 @ 07:24 PM

    If those dissenters are the same thugs who are trying to wreck the peace process, then i would want to silence them. As far i can see, these dissenters are a collection of thugs, more in tune with the UDA thugs, than any republican idealism.

    PS… Save the history lesson!! lets talk about the future.

  • atn

    “Well done those who came out in numbers to oppose, while next to no-one came out naturally in support without enforced party discipline.

    Posted by Frank Sinistra on Nov 20, 2007 @ 09:14 PM”

    Frank/Robin,

    Well done! to the thugs, who are building criminal organisations in the markets, for coming out against the police?????