Is the PSNI up to the job? Is Collins’ analysis correct?

Colonel Tim, with his usual Napoleonic self-confidence, puts the question in the Daily Mail.“ So why has Britain’s political establishment so shamefully weakened our defences against terrorism to the extent that this murderous minority seems to think it can strike with impunity?”

Adds. Another Ed Moloney piece, “This attack will be a recruiting call in the Bogside”, following up on his “Four Courts moment” for SF, discusses what he believes is the fertile recruiting ground for resurgent violent republicanism. Plausible, but over the top I suspect, more a case of SF facing up to the rigours of responsibility in government rather than revolution against it.

Collins’ case is weakened by his irrelevant attack on 50:50 recruitment and his failure to come up with an alternative which is at least generally tolerated if not enthusiastically embraced . But on the central issue, has he got a point? It would be great if the debate was held on the basis of knowledge and objectivity rather than polemic and prejudice.

During the Troubles, for example, it is estimated that one in three IRA men were informants for Special Branch. Today’s Special Branch no longer exists in its old form. Instead, the bulk of intelligence work has been taken over by MI5 – a superb organisation in many ways, but one that lacks the intimate local knowledge that the RUC once had.

So how to defeat them, if the law is ineffective? In the end, the answer may prove truly bizarre.
Every shooting, every bombing is a greater embarrassment to these old Provos. I believe there are already some ex Provisionals who are pressing for the IRA Council to deal with the upstarts of the Real IRA and other dissidents.Wouldn’t it be bitterly ironic if the failings of the police and the courts led to vigilante ‘justice’?

“On the ground, the power sharing deal has done little to improve the lives of people in places like West Belfast, which for years had loyally voted for Sinn Fein and its leader, Gerry Adams…If anything conditions have worsened. With the IRA no longer able to police the area, and the PSNI reluctant to do so, crime is rampant. Unemployment is as high as ever and the economic boom that came in the wake of the peace settlement has passed the area by. A British government report last November showed that a boy born in West Belfast can expect to live six years less than one from the more affluent south of the city.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London