Time for political nationalism to ‘man up’ on law and order?

There are no end of northern nationalists prepared to resort to law when it suits their cause. Equality laws for instance provide a ready stick to beat the backwoods men of the DUP when it comes to some socially conservative policy. 

Yet so far only a nationalist minister, Conor Murphy, has been brought to book for actual discrimination in an administration which is getting more and more obsessive (and inventive when the need arises) with a need to preserve public largesse for their own community.

In today’s Irish News Newton Emerson points out that many nationalists are put in danger by a generally weak approach to law and order. He gives the example of a young loyalist man given a non custodial sentence for making pipe bombs:

Responding to McDowells non custodial sentence, Sinn Fein’s MLA Daithi McKay expressed mild disappointment, while the SDLP issued no statement at all. Unionist silence was explained by the deference unionists show towards small town thuggery.

The SDLP’s deference is to the legal profession and the professional exuse making industry in general, and Sinn Fein has to be careful around any prison or paramilitary related issue. 

But more broadly Sinn Fein and the SDLP are in hock to a centre left, anti custodial philosophy that makes it difficult for them to support imprisonment, even in support of their own broadly centre right constituents.

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  • Caoimhín

    It is a matter of continuing frustration that nationalists in the north are a broadly centre right constituency represented by two political parties who are professionals at playing the béal bocht.

    “Manning up” and having a bit of self confidence is exactly the advice the SDLP and Sinn Féin need. Instead we have hand-wringers and finger waggers continually making excuses for the very worst elements in our society, be they criminals, welfare cheats or malingerers. All done under the illusion that left wing politics (or as Charles Gould would say ‘labour values’) are some sort of touchstone or sacred cow of the nationalist community. They are not. They have done and our doing immense harm to our society.

    The nationalist parties need to have the self-confidence to wean their electorate off a feeling of entitlement and victimhood (and I use that term in the socio-economic sense) and give them a bit of “get-up-and-go” that invigorated the southern economy in the 90’s.

    Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have never suffered from this thralldom to phony left-wing sacred cows. Why have the nationalist parties in the north, representing an identical constituency, not felt able to do likewise?

  • Caoimhín

    *are doing

  • Sp12

    Where would northern nationalists be without polls and pundits to tell them they are actually unionist even though they mistakenly vote for nationalist parties and additionally they are centre-right even though they vote for leftys.

    Considering the past year on our streets, the first sentence of your post is risible.

  • Charles_Gould

    Caoimhín

    “Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have never suffered from this thralldom to phony left-wing sacred cows. Why have the nationalist parties in the north, representing an identical constituency, not felt able to do likewise?”

    Theory: in this context it means a strong retributive justice role for the state. No problem for southerners with their own state. Or for northern Unionists who see the UK as their state. But for nationalists in NI the state in question is a British one – so some find it difficult to call for a strong British state enforcement in NI.

  • between the bridges

    Prepare for in coming what about whatabouttery! Lets be honest we would have a better society if all our politicians were paragon’s of virtue beyond reproach, but they are what they are and many of us vote for them so we get what we deserve…

  • Republic of Connaught

    Best post I’ve seen from you, BTW.

    I have little time for voters in any part of Ireland who complain about politicians and how bad they are. Politicians, like it or not, tend to be a reflection of the societies they come from.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Given the recent plaques and marches fiasco, along with the (apparent) stubbornness of the bearded wonder, hasn’t the time come for a new nationalist/republican party, anti-violence, pro-law and order, with a clean slate to work from? Sinn Féin seem to be too anchored to historical tit-for-tat and the SDLP seem to be dying a slow painful withering. Is it too difficult for a political party to renounce violence past or present? Or am I being too innocent of a Thurdsay morning?

  • Coll Ciotach

    Caoimhin is correct in that the two nationalist parties are not a true reflection of the majority nationalist position on social policy. However the loyalty of the tribe means that they will continue to vote for the existing parties.

    As for using the police if it suits – well give an alternative that is not a british police force which has incorporated the RUC which was so much in cahoots with the loyalist murder gangs that the distinction between them is blurred, and see which force/service is preferred, and whose reluctance to deal with them to this day is a disgrace and see what is the nationalist preference.

    Considering that the UDA was legal until august 1992 and that they would know the colour of the curtains nationalists expect nothing more than begrudged policing of unionist gunmen, that has always been the case and always will. when it comes to keeping the croppy in his place it is well known that any gunman will do – Yabba Dabba Doo

    So it matters not a jot about nationalists or their reps signing up for policing or “manning” up in the backstreet lingo of the post. Nothing will change until we get a police service that actually represents the people in a shared society, and that is not a British police force as the PSNI are.

  • Caoimhín

    Droch_Bhuachaill

    Is a new party needed? Are there not several such parties that exist a short hop across the border? If these parties manned up and became 32 county organisations it would do a great service to northern nationalists and ‘nationalism’ in general.

    As Coll points out, the tribal pull leaves the electorate with little option. Sinn Féin’s hegemony needs to be challenged in order for nationalism to thrive. The SDLP is not fit for this purpose and should be euthanised/merged/subsumed post haste.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Caoimhín,

    Indeed. Seems ‘The Republican Party’ at the bottom of FF’s logo is shrinking so much it it now barely legible. lipservice.

    As it stands, Sinn Féin will never deliver a UI while they think it is A) ok to put up a plaque to a man who blew children up and B) ok to be led by someone under the suspicion of being a facilitator of a paedophile.

  • megatron

    Shock expressed when people use the law when it suits them and not when it doesnt.

    Colour me surprised. Its really bad when its poor people who do this but when large corporations and / or rich individuals do it there is no problem.

    Droch Buachaill and Caoimhín live in a pretend universe where lots of people come to the same conculsions as them.

    I prefer to count the votes.

  • Caoimhín

    megatron lives in a universe where every nationalist is centre-left and every unionist centre-right.

    Our people don’t vote based on social policy, they vote for their tribe, regardless.

  • Mc Slaggart

    ” Sinn Fein and the SDLP are in hock to a centre left, anti custodial philosophy”

    One in which i agree with. Putting people into prison generally does not make them come out better people. Restorative justice is a much better approach.

  • Charles_Gould

    The thread is on law-and-order, not social policy.

  • Caoimhín

    Law-and-order is part of social policy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_policy

  • Mc Slaggart

    “Coll Ciotach”

    ” police service that actually represents the people in a shared society, and that is not a British police force as the PSNI are.”

    Now i may have hated the RUC but i did like a lot of people who was members of the “Force”. If you want to get an organisation to go some place then its best starting at the point at which you are at and not some other magical place.

    I am an nationalist from Tyrone so from that perspective the PSNI will over time become a much more “Irish” /European if it actually wants to fight crime successfully.

  • Delphin

    I think these people would be in favour of ‘manning up’ as opposed to ‘restorative justice’, but then what would they know.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-24739677

  • megatron

    “Our people don’t vote based on social policy, they vote for their tribe, regardless”

    if you say so it must be true.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Delphin

    Did you know shooting people in the legs or beating them with sticks did not change people behavior. How do you think sending them to a crime center of excellence is going to stop them from carrying out such crimes again?

  • Rory Carr

    People “prepared to resort to law when it suits their cause,” Mick cites disapprovingly. One would be forgiven for thinking that he might be referring to corporate tax-avoiders who have ever justified their anti-social skullduggery by retorting that they are only using the law. Different story though when the weak and defenceless in society might find true and willing champions among the political class. Then the cry becomes, “Stand on your own two feet, you whinger !”

    But, what a very odd post indeed. Quite apart from its timing – while Loyalist thugs from East Belfast have been holding the city to ransom for nigh on twelve months with the tacit approval of many Unionist ministers, and in light of a recent television investigation into the failure of police and government to stand up to the murderous criminal racketeers of the UVF, while yet all is quiet on the Western front, it is Nationalist politicians who are weak on law ‘n’ order.

    To illustrate this Newton Emerson uses the case of a Loyalist youth receiving a non-custodial sentence for making pipe-bombs (intended, undoubtedly, to maim Nationalists) when only Sinn Féin expressed criticism of the sentence, while all the unionist parties and the bourgeois, pro-Westminster Nationalist party remained silent. I know that Emerson gained his spurs as a satirist but isn’t this a wee bit weak ?

    Then in response to the thread we have this strange conflation of social and economic policy with law ‘n’ order by those who seem to assume that the more miserable the masses become the happier will they then be. The only barrier to socioeconomic heaven for them is an army of “criminals, welfare cheats or malingerers” who refuse to live on fresh air alone.

    And why is it only the unemployed from the Nationalist communities (the most deprived in the jurisdiction) that need to “man up” ? Indeed how would you have them man up ? Reduce the city centre to rubble and hold a few industrialists to ransom demanding “Gissa job ! Or else.” ?

    God knows, if you keep reducing the already woeful standard of living among the unemployed, the mothers and children and the weak, the sick and elderly, to slice a little off the already less-than-fair ( maybe even less-than-strictly-legal) taxes you pay, then the “manning up” might well come to that – and then, as the cops weigh in with baton charges and indiscriminate arrests and false convictions, where would respect for the lovely Miss Laura Norder be ?

  • Newton Emerson

    I began this article with a disclaimer against blaming the victim. That’s an unintended side-effect of the point I wanted to make.

    I ended the article with a specific suggestion – that SF and the SDLP could help press for a re-examination of the NI sentencing guidelines council, proposed during the devolution of policing and justice but since dismissed by David Ford.

    I’d be interested in any informed thoughts on that.

  • Caoimhín

    Rory

    It’s the mindset that concerns me most. The thought that “the world owes me a living.” I don’t think that social welfare rates are too generous, I think they’re about what they should be. The eligibility criteria need to be tightened up so they go to the needy and not the professional malingerers. I don’t think your man IDS is doing a particularly bad job in that respect.

    On the law and order issue I would suggest that nationalist communities would be supportive of a toughening of sentencing guidelines in tandem with an increase in community engagement from the PSNI; especially with regard to anti-social behaviour. Too often we hear the mealy-mouthed attempt to portray the offender as the victim in this regard.

    How is incarceration supposed to ‘help’ these offenders? For a start by teaching them that their actions have consequences; a lesson many people at both the top and bottom of society have yet to learn.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Newton you write “difficult for them to support imprisonment” yet you admit that “Sinn Fein’s MLA Daithi McKay expressed mild disappointment” which would indicate that he would have liked imprisonment in this case?

    I found your remark that the sdlp and sf do not always follow their “own broadly centre right constituents” both true and praiseworthy.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Caoimhín

    ” For a start by teaching them that their actions have consequences”

    I wish prison worked but the facts will tend to show it does not. Putting people in prison often hides from people the real consequences of their actions and they learn a new set of excuses in prison for the actions.

    Having to face the people whom they have hurt has a much greater impact on people. They should also have to put right the things that they have done wrong as much as possible.

  • Rory Carr

    This gets more confusing by the minute.

    It now seems that Newton Emerson simply wants Sinn Féin and the SDLP to be more active in calling for custodial sentences for (some?) offenders.

    There is a lobby active on this issue in England – mostly associated with organisations such as Group 4 and US conglomerates which have grown fat on the ‘3 strikes’ policy. The idea is that these concerns build prisons that require little human supervision and then staff them with poorly trained, ill-paid warders and rent the whole shebang to the government at exorbitant rates. In order for shareholders (and political cronies) to maximise their bounty all that now is needed is a plenitude of prisoners.

    This is where the lovers of Miss Laura Norder come in – calling for the criminalisation of many things associated with the lower orders – football hooliganism for example (but never Henley hooliganism or that old favourite in Oxford, Restaurant Wrecking.) Then the Daily Mail will carry on a campaign against the shock-horror failure of community sentencing (“Granny fears rape by hoolum community gardeners “) and we are off.

    New crimes will be legislated and penalties increase as the prisons and the profits grow.

    Does it not occur to you, Newton, that lurking inside that nasty wee Loyalist pipe-bomber might just be a frightened youth caught ina trap of ignorant, sectarian parenting and brutal peer pressure, a lad who has never known other and that, just maybe, if, instead of making him a prison martyr and a hard man, we try for a better way to show him that life really can be beautiful ?

    Now that is a reform worth the effort.

  • Delphin

    I did know that Mc S. I knew someone who worked in the Mater in those dark days and had to deal with the consequences of punishment shooting and beatings. I was told of one young man in particular who couldn’t stop himself from stealing cars no matter what they did to him. He ended up in England, I think.
    Any justice is a balance between rehabilitating the criminal and protecting the public. I see little option but to jail persistent offenders to protect the rest of us.

  • Caoimhín

    “Does it not occur to you, Newton, that lurking inside that nasty wee Loyalist pipe-bomber might just be a frightened youth caught in a trap of ignorant, sectarian parenting and brutal peer pressure”

    Reminds me of Boris Johnson being asked how he could square his public appearance as a buffoon with his competence and relative success as a magazine editor, member of parliament etc. He answered that:

    “You cannot rule out the possibility that underneath the facade of a bumbling idiot, there in fact lurks… a bumbling idiot.”

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: or that old favourite in Oxford, Restaurant Wrecking.
    That would be a useful observation if it wasn’t for the fact that once the perps have bribed the victim to the victim’s entire satisfaction, then there is no longer a victim.
    But if the perps fail to manage that (and I am sure there are people who wouldn’t be bribed), then “throw the book at them”. (also “short sharp shock”, “feral youths”, “do the time”, mutter, mutter)

  • Morpheus

    Time for political nationalism to ‘man-up’ when it comes to law and order?

    40k leaflets targeting the Alliance leading to firebombs, death threats and the attempted murder of a police officer. Silence from political unionism.

    Protest after protest bringing city centre trade to its knees. Silence from political unionism.

    Police subjected to attacks from drunken idiots with ceremonial swords. Silence from political unionism. (Well actually not silence, they were perfectly willing to share a stage with the alleged UVF commander)

    UVF Brian Robinson parade. Silence from political unionism.

    Gangsterism, drug-dealing and orchestrated violence. Silence from political unionism.

    Republican parade to commemorate people who blew themselves up. OUTCRY from political unionism. Loyalist parade to commemorate people who blew themselves up and we’re back to silence from political unionism.

    The 12 months we’ve just had and it’s political nationalism that needs to ‘man up’ when it comes to law and order???

    Hardly.

  • Mc Slaggart

    “Any justice is a balance between rehabilitating the criminal and protecting the public. I see little option but to jail persistent offenders to protect the rest of us.”

    Sadly prison is an expensive option and for minor crimes the person does not normally spend that long inside.

    I for one would like the criminal system to be more honest and give a criminal something directly for “rehabilitation”, “protecting the public” and lastly a bit of “punishment”.

    I know of cases in Tyrone if a criminal is caught on the wrong farm/house stealing the “locals” take matters into their own hands. In some cases the criminals go to the police afterwards. It must be strange for police men to face a situation in which the criminal says that they was stealing and the victim’s of an attempted robbery to say that nothing took place.

  • cynic2

    ” For a start by teaching them that their actions have consequences”

    …..that they may be offered a SpAd job ion £70k?

  • cynic2

    “It now seems that Newton Emerson simply wants Sinn Féin and the SDLP to be more active in calling for custodial sentences for (some?) offenders.”

    …..they do …..Protestant ones.

    They also often turn up in court to support nationalist ones and complain that it is ‘victimization’

    Man who rise two horses eventually get torn apart

  • cynic2

    Any justice is a balance between rehabilitating the criminal and protecting the public.

    I disagree in that its more complex than that and involves punishment too and maintaining confidence in the system

  • Caoimhín

    …..that they may be offered a SpAd job ion £70k?

    I was thinking more of the 14 years she spent in jail. Consequence.

  • ayeYerMa

    “the deference unionists show towards small town thuggery.”

    What a lot of nonsense. What is it with this pathetic assumption that our local politicians have to make a comment on every single PSNI press release? Not all our politicians do the work of the “army council” of a terrorist organisation and do not have anything to prove in this regard.

  • Reader

    cynic2: I disagree in that its more complex than that and involves punishment too and maintaining confidence in the system
    For the Perps: Rehabilitation; Restraint; Deterrence and Punishment.
    For the Victims; Compensation; Reassurance; Restoration and Revenge.
    Personally, I’m not convinced punishment is anything other than a mix of revenge and deterrence, but I am aware other people think punishment is meaningful as a separate term.

  • Charles_Gould

    The question is about nationalism not unionism. Getting a lot about unionism.

  • Charles_Gould

    Revenge and deterrence are both important.

  • son of sam

    I note from the B B C (N I) website that a Crossmaglen fuel laundering plant has been raided by H M R C.If and when the case comes to court,I look forward to local politicians calling for the appropriate custodial sentences.Something tells me I may have a long wait!

  • Son of Strongbow

    sos,

    You mean there were actual arrests made!

    Wow, I’m impressed! When these facilities are usually raided in Bandit Country the perps seem to have, mysteriously, all gone away you know.

    Maybe some slip up in contemporary ‘collusion’ that left the bad guys on site holding the diesel pumps?

  • son of sam

    Son of Strongbow
    I await further clarification on arrests.However I wouldn’t hold my breath!My point was rather in respect of local politicians calling for custodial sentences.Flying pigs time,I’d imagine!

  • aquifer

    “the deference unionists show towards small town thuggery.”

    Quite, where would the Orange be without thuggery in reserve to stop us laughing at the costumes, now that they can no longer force croppies to lie down.

    The rule of law is a litmus test for republicanism though. If some Northern nationalists cannot abide the rule of law and taxes, is their republicanism any more than a privateer’s flag of convenience?

    The British oppression argument does not wash, as the legal systems and laws North and South are substantially the same. The recent collapse of Irish economic sovereignty was in part due to illegality among ‘republicans’ so called.

  • jagmaster

    Jesus, Nationalists were lambasted in the past for not following the law and order protocol and now they’re lambasted for following the protocol. Will this nit picking by middle class academics ever stop?

  • tomthumbuk

    They need to review the sentences here.
    It appears that in Scotland, for possession of a loaded gun in public there is a minimum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.
    Recently a person convicted of possession of a gun and ammo, in N.I. got 18 months in gaol, and he had a previous conviction for a similar offence.
    If he was an Islamist , caught in a similar situation in G.B. or U.S.A. he’d be away for 15 and 50 years respectively.
    Explanations please?

  • aquifer

    We have a soft spot for pricks with pistols.

    Its a man thing.

  • cynic2

    “I’m not convinced punishment is anything other than a mix of revenge and deterrence,”

    Is deterrence so bad?

    And I would use ‘retribution’ as opposed to revenge but its a fine line

  • cynic2

    “Explanations please?”

    Wityhout dealing with the sepcific case you cite, in general there may be a range of factors and precedents set through years of violence and pleas that:

    * he was keeping if for someone
    * he didn’t know it was there
    * someone put it there while he was out for a pint of milk and he didn’t know what to do with it
    * he ‘helped’ the polis when he was arrested

    In some cases there may also be neat little deals between prosecution and defence counsel that allow a quick plea on the basis on an agreed story on how the poor wretch found himself in the dock (accompanied by violin music and the smell of fresh onions). This can avoid a boring and costly trial and allow them all to get away by 2pm for a 4 ball while still keeping up fee income

  • Charles_Gould

    Retribution is as important as deterrence. The justice element is why we have retribution – the economic element is why we have deterrence.

  • Rory Carr

    “…the economic element is why we have deterrence.”

    Silly old me ! I have always held that it was the conscience element that provided deterrence.

  • Comrade Stalin

    McSlaggart

    One in which i agree with. Putting people into prison generally does not make them come out better people.

    That’s a hell of a claim. How do you measure a thing like that ?

    Restorative justice is a much better approach.

    Is that an anecdotal opinion or is there any sort of evidence ?

  • Mc Slaggart

    Their study concluded that in at least two trials each:

    RJ reduced recidivism for offenders of both violent and property crimes.
    RJ reduced post-traumatic stress symptoms and the desire for revenge for victims.
    RJ processes were preferred over CJ by both victims and offenders.
    RJ reduced costs when used as diversion from CJ.
    When RJ was an option, two or more times as many cases were brought to justice (including cases of robbery and assault).
    http://www.iirp.edu/article_detail.php?article_id=NTUy

  • Comrade Stalin

    As some have pointed out, prison serves a number of functions; retribution, rehabilitation and also protecting the public from crime by putting offenders away.

    I do not have evidence to hand (I am hoping that McSlaggart is going to produce evidence to support his claims) but it would surprise me greatly if the majority of those jailed reoffended following their release. Certainly a number probably would do, but you hear just as many stories of people who turn their lives around. The BBC covered this week the story of Paris Lees, who spent her life dealing with a number of difficulties and was jailed at 16; upon her release a year and a half later she committed herself to turning her life around, and did so very successfully.

    Jailing rioters or people who possess firearms with intent to commit terrorist actions for a period of years at least gets them out of the way of creating further problems and provides something for any would-be troublemakers to reflect on.

  • Comrade Stalin

    McS,

    Sorry to move the goalposts but .. it’s kind of hard to trust the numbers from a restorative justice advocacy group.

  • Rory Carr
  • Comrade Stalin

    Rory,

    I scanned that document briefly, it seems to say that the reoffending rate in the UK is anywhere between 6 and 13% depending on when and where you look.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This “debate” (if it can be described as such) dates back to the early/mid 1990s. Republicans were transitioning away from the idea of solving problems through physical force but had not yet made the jump to supporting the police. They had to come up with a way of squaring their opposition to the police and the courts with the idea that you had to do something about crime other than blowing people’s kneecaps off.

    The concept of restorative justice was co-opted for this purpose. It’s a long time since I’ve heard any senior republican elected representatives seriously advocating this alternative, and I think that is a lot to do with the fact that they now understand that properly accountable and effective police and courts services are the only way to tackle crime.

  • Charles_Gould

    “Silly old me ! I have always held that it was the conscience element that provided deterrence.”

    Not sure what you mean. When I said “economic element” I meant (to use economic language) people essentially have reason and perform a kind of cost benefit analysis when deciding whether to commit a crime, so this economic element is the mechanism through which the deterrence aspect of prison operates.

  • Mc Slaggart
  • Reader

    cynic2: Is deterrence so bad? And I would use ‘retribution’ as opposed to revenge but its a fine line.
    Deterrence is fine and useful – my doubt was whether ‘punishment’ was a real thing, or just the conflation of two separate ideas that are best not mixed up.
    You caught me out over ‘revenge’, though – I could have chosen a less loaded term.

  • Rory Carr

    Of course imprisonment does not work as a deterrent. One only has to look at the USA where, very soon, everyone bar the members of the Supreme Court will be in prison – and that includes prison warders who will have to double up as unpaid trusties to help increase profits – yet the crime rate (including murder and rape), like Topsy, “jest grows an’ grows”.

  • “As some have pointed out, prison serves a number of functions; retribution, rehabilitation and also protecting the public from crime by putting offenders away.”

    @CS,
    It has been in the U.S., and probably in the UK as well, that the biggest predictor for the crime level is the number of people in low socio-economic backgrounds in the age range from 15-35. As people reach the 35-40 year age they tend to drop out of crime and many of those involved in crime die before they hit that age due to murder, drug overdoses, or being killed by the police pursuant to arrest. So that with high levels of crime governments tend to concentrate on simply “warehousing” criminals in prison until they reach that magic age. Rehabilitation takes a backseat due to limited funds and the low educational and intelligence levels of many of the convicts. Prison, unfortunately hasn’t been seen as much of a deterrent by those most likely to commit crimes.

  • Comrade Stalin

    McS,

    I’ve not read your latest link but I’m not sure that I need to. You started out by claiming that prison isn’t effective in reforming people. That would imply that there is a high rate of reoffending – which there isn’t.

    I’m not completely against the idea of CRJ, as apart from anything else it’s probably cheaper than imprisoning people. But you have no case outside of that.

    tmitch, the attitude to prison and crime in the USA is completely different from most parts of Europe. The last time I checked the incarceration rate in the USA was something like ten times higher than in the UK. There is also a rather disturbing suggestion that abuse of prisoners either by prison warders or other inmates is part of the punishment. So I don’t really think they’re comparable.