A former boxer (according to Wikipedia he only lost 4 out of 75 fights) and a Malachi’s boy to boot, Alex Maskey argues, no doubt, like he used to box: goads his man, makes him drop his defences with a series of short jabs, and finishes it all off with a nice wee ‘cheerio’ slap at the end. If Alex Attwood was feeling pleased with himself after his handling of Daithi McKay a few weeks, he got the proverbial cold water treatment tonight on Hearts and Minds. But to do it Maskey had to throw every convention of civil engagement right out of the window.
So why did Maskey do it? Revenge for Daithi? Or was this attack as the best form of defence? He certainly filibustered long enough (ie for more than ten minutes television time) to freeze out any mention of the deployment of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment. A deployment that can no longer be scrutinised by the Policing Board (nor any future policing and justice minister); because of specific arrangements negotiated by, wait for it, Sinn Fein. This press release came from Republican Sinn Fein just half an hour before the programme went out:
Whilst Gerry Adams and his cheerleaders were quick to make ludicrous claims that the opening of an MI5 centre in Hollywood, Co. Down, constituted a positive move towards the introduction of accountable civic policing, it has now been admitted that at least 15% of MI5s resources are dedicated towards targeting those with whom Mr. Adams disagrees. The RUC, of course, retain executive powers in enforcing the will of MI5.”
That last refers to the fact that, under the St Andrews Agreement, the PSNI can be obliged to carry out explicit orders from MI5 without any of the real time scrutiny the SDLP say they asked for but were refused in the negotiations towards what became, in the words of Gerry Adams an indigenous deal put together by SF and the DUP.
The news of this deployment appears not to have come from any official channels and its public announcement seems to have taken most of the local players by completely by surprise; including the Chief Constable who, Slugger understands, did not mention it at the Policing Board today. It may be this cat amongst the pigeons, that prompted Maskey to come out fighting in another of his famous/infamous rearguard actions.
Only this begins to look more like a panic attack than a common or garden political assault…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty