Micheál Martin “there is a grave danger that policing in the North will be compromised because of this activity”

I’ve alluded to this in a post earlier in the week, but the Oireachtas record gives Deputy Gerry Adams a voice not captured on the Dail video. The exchange between himself and the leader of Fianna Fail is very instructive, not least as we face into another summer of discontent…

The relevant section begins with Mr Martin making a point he’s made before, only because of his interventions more forcefully and directly to one of the political parties he clearly holds responsible for not sorting our annual mess over parades out:

Micheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail): Did the Taoiseach speak to Prime Minister Cameron about extending the remit of the Parades Commission? Parading remains a major risk to civic stability in the North. There is considerable nervousness in the North about the upcoming parading season, particularly because of the flag violence we witnessed last Christmas. These events were particularly harmful for communities like the Short Strand enclave in east Belfast, which has effectively endured a continuous parading season.

It is vital that the authority of the Parades Commission is underpinned by both Irish and British Governments. That has not been happening to the degree it should have, particularly since Christmas. It was agreed at the Hillsborough talks two years ago to commence a process which would get agreement among the various strands of opinion on an alternative structure, but no obvious progress has been made by the parties. In the absence of any alternative, the Parades Commission can only continue its vital work if it is clear to all that it has the support of the Irish Government and will not be second-guessed or undermined by any strand of political opinion simply because somebody does not like a decision it makes.

The performance of First Minister, Peter Robinson, MLA, last summer, when he co-signed an open letter condemning the commission, was a major setback. It was exactly the opposite of what the families of Northern Ireland have a right to expect from their leaders. Was the Taoiseach aware of this and has he a view on the fact that Mr. Robinson co-signed a letter that fundamentally undermined the only authority designed to call it in terms of parades? These issues demand to be raised and discussed with the British Government.

Other issues arise in regard to policing and the PSNI. I support the PSNI but Sinn Féin picketed a PSNI office because it did not like who it arrested. [emphasis added]

Gerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein) We are entitled to do that.

Micheál Martin I do not think you are.

Gerry Adams Yes, we are.

Micheál Martin If Sinn Féin members are on the Executive and the policing boards, they undermine the authority of the PSNI if they question its operational decisions on who to arrest or which crimes to pursue. That is fundamentally wrong and Sinn Féin does not enjoy that luxury.

Gerry Adams: It is not a luxury; it is a right.

Micheál Martin: Parties in government do not enjoy that right. Sinn Féin cannot have it every way all of the time.

Gerry Adams: The PSNI has to be accountable.

Micheál Martin: It is accountable through the structures created under the Patten reforms. That is why people sit on the policing boards. There is accountability through the boards. Various communities and political parties, including Sinn Féin, have representatives on the policing boards. There is a line of accountability but, unfortunately, there is a grave danger that policing in the North will be compromised because of this activity. A pattern has emerged whereby there are protests when arrests happen in loyalist areas. People can switch on riots if they do not like who is being arrested. People cannot condemn that kind of activity on the one hand while deciding to mount pickets on the other.

Gerry Adams: Rioting and peaceful picketing are distinct activities.

Micheál Martin: It increases tensions, inflames opinion and undermines the authority of the PSNI. No institution is perfect but the PSNI represents one of the better transformations or new departures to have emanated from the Good Friday Agreement. The work done by Chris Patten and everybody else has been held up as a model for policing in conflict areas. All parties should be extremely careful that nothing is done to undermine that transformation. By all means we should enhance it but let us not play to all bases all of the time. The problem in Northern politics is that the main parties play to their electoral bases to the detriment of the common good on social, economic and political issues.

Gerry Adams: Is the Deputy blushing?

Brendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail): Deputy Adams would blush a good bit if he was to listen to the truth.

Michael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail): Through the Chair.

Micheál Martin: I am reliably informed that certain people were blushing on “Primetime.”

Gerry Adams: It certainly was not me. It may have been the presenter.

Micheál Martin: I doubt it somehow.

Patrick O’Donovan: (Limerick, Fine Gael): It is their only way of communicating.

Michael Kitt: We are on Taoiseach’s Questions.

, , , , , ,

  • redhugh78

    Micheal Martin has no moral authority to pontificate on policing in the North, he and his party Fianna Fail turned a blind eye to the activities of the RUC for 30 years, he’s a bit late now to have an interest in policing issues or SF’s approach to it.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think he’s saying you are both running a bit of a handy racket that suits one another…

  • GavBelfast

    I can understand Unionists feeling that a Fianna Fail leader should ‘butt-out’ of Northern Ireland matters.

    But Northern nationalists? “Your” would-be Taoiseach?

    The irony ….

    The sham-fight Martin identifies (on a regular basis now) does indeed suit both ends of the co-enjoined pantomime-horse very nicely, thank you very much, and to hell with their fodder and the rest of us (useful and pliant idiots, too).

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    As you’d expect we’ve mentioned this behaviour before…

    And Liam Clarke made the point

    In a modern democracy, politicians are expected to allow the police the operational independence to follow up whatever leads come up – even if many of them turn out to be false.

    The alternative would be for detectives to ring up senior politicians and to ask which suspects could be vouched for and which it would be wise to pull in for questioning.

    That is just the sort of old boys’ network that republicans claimed operated between senior unionists and the RUC under the old Stormont.

  • redhugh78

    Gavbelfast,

    The irony is all FF’s.

    The irony of FF’s sudden interest in policing matters north of the border in order to score politicall points from SF is lost on nobody, least of all Northern Nationalists.

  • GavBelfast

    Northern Nationalists, as extreme as, and more extreme than, Sinn Fein, also demonstrate how out-of-kilter they are from their compatriots in the Republic of Ireland these days with this sometimes slightly constitutional behaviour.

    Still, like the other end of the horse (or is it a cow?) it does well to please the camp-followers every once in a while ….

  • Sp12

    “I think he’s saying you are both running a bit of a handy racket that suits one another…”

    Really? In the Penalty points and redactions week?

    I don’t know why you chose this exchange, one where quite frankly, Micheal comes off worse than usual, as an example in your continuing struggle to convince us (and maybe even yourself) that Micheal’s sojuorns are anything other than Micheal electioneering for a southern audience.

  • aquifer

    Micheal Martin is doing great republican service promoting the rule of law and equality under it. Great that he can be bothered to bother the shameless. We may have given up taking our politicians to task, instead suffering the poverty of low expectations. SFDUP really are a shower. Maybe it takes a bankrupt FF to recognise what a liability they are, accidents waiting to happen.

  • Mick Fealty

    SP12,

    I wasn’t going to bother with this, but your comment prompted a (not very good) recording of Brendan Smith’s GMU interview from Wednesday…

    It deals with the electoral narrative (which I sort of buy and sort of don’t)… I don’t buy it because although what Smith says is pretty spot on… Meath East has put the SF challenge in perspective… He’s a politician, and all politicians have to put electoral strategies somewhere up near the top of their list of priorities…

    What I do buy is that the FF analysis actually fits what we are experiencing… And SF’s and the DUP’s rationalisation (like cooking up ‘cut’ figures to cover the fact that neither have provided us with any substantial ideas of how to advance the gains of the GFA)…

    Just watch Jonathan Bell deal with a direct question from Mark Caruthers about where the money is coming from for OFMdFM’s Towards a United Community strategy: http://goo.gl/W1R36

    Both he and Mr O’Dowd in that clip veer away from detail of cost and investment figures as though they were some form of political anthrax…

  • Sp12

    The election results do put it ‘in perspective’ yes, my own perspective is that SF’s increasing vote in the constituency have denied FF a single seat where they once had 2 of the 3 available seats, back when their candidates topped the polls on the first count. Especially important now, given that the vote for the party that topped the poll in the last election has catastrophically collapsed.

    In general yes, the FF analysis ‘fits’, the executive is dysfunctional, then again, as we all know, politics in the north is dysfunctional. Some of us even have come to the conclusion that it will remain so until a UI happens and are happy enough with that.

    Smith was on message, the same general message we’ve heard since SF’s vote threatened the tradition of ‘my go or yours?’ that characterises southern politics, SF are not fit to govern, Micheal is a great lad, very hands on in his previous role, the man he was working under at the time is once again noticeable by his absence in any discussion.

    So how do you think the idea of accusing others of ‘running a handy racket’ fits in, on a week where we’ve been brought back to the knowledge of guards disappearing penalty points for the ruling class, not that we are allowed to know just who they disappeared points for?

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks for that Sp.. Precisely, I think he is implying it here:

    The performance of First Minister, Peter Robinson, MLA, last summer, when he co-signed an open letter condemning the commission, was a major setback. It was exactly the opposite of what the families of Northern Ireland have a right to expect from their leaders. Was the Taoiseach aware of this and has he a view on the fact that Mr. Robinson co-signed a letter that fundamentally undermined the only authority designed to call it in terms of parades? These issues demand to be raised and discussed with the British Government.

    Other issues arise in regard to policing and the PSNI. I support the PSNI but Sinn Féin picketed a PSNI office because it did not like who it arrested

    As for the penalty point fiasco, that is a fish of a rather different kettle, is it not?

  • Sp12

    To be honest Mick. My issue with Micheal and FF ‘weighing in’ to point out dysfunction is their case in point. We all know that parades will show up fault lines in the executive and indeed within some of the executive parties. A 12 year old interviewed on a Vice adventure holiday travelogue would tell you that.
    I admit I may have missed it, but where were the statements on Girdwood from Micheal and co?
    Girdwood was to me the most poignant example of the dysfunction, for the simple fact that it crystallised the effect it has on ordinary people’s lives 24/7 , those who in any other modern western society could rely on their politicians to do the right thing.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sp,

    The ground issue par excellence is Girdwood. Consider too that Alban Maguinness was also inveigled to show up for the photo call, so that from a nationalist point of view there is not much hope the current reserve team would have done anything differently.

    But there is a bigger question over resource management at a Stormont level. Go back to that moment the week before last when Caruthers asks where the money is coming from for this ‘policy’ Towards a United Community (http://goo.gl/ZRu97)…

    In the south the answer ‘it’ll cost millions’ is potentially the beginning of a career ending television interview… Translated it means, ‘don’t ask me, we’re just making this up as we go along and hoping the public buy it as us doing something with the office of First and deputy First Minister..”

    Listen to Bell talking about initiatives to be launched by the Minister for social development so Nelson can produce for ten new Gridwoods, the ten shared campuses which cuts right across Minister O’Dowd’s own stated preference for piecemeal, ground up area planning.

    I’m working on a longer piece on this subject, but these fault-lines are not some act of god that show up and ruin everything, they are showing up on the ground because our current leaders do not have a set of politics that allows them to serve the needs of a long peace.

    In that context, Martin is an interesting and useful voice. His interventions are both thoughtful and strategically relevant to our existential problems in Northern Ireland.

    He also speaks to the fact that SF treats every government responsibility as an opportunity to ‘negotiate’ piecemeal on a whole lot of stuff that makes no material difference to the people who vote for it.

    Girdwood should not have been the issue at stake. Overcrowding in north Belfast should have been the issue, and it should have been attacked on as broad a front as possible so as to take reasonable account of the fears and vulnerabilities of people on both sides.

    The (Norn) Irony is that people on the ground already know this. But they are just not getting the political leadership they have hoped for, and (IMHO) deserve.