Policing and Nationalism: “It’s too soft and it needs to be stronger. You need to be firmer.”

There’s been some fascinating comment on the Peadar Heffron interview that our new blogger “Pluto” mentioned yesterday. The interview was published nearly two weeks ago, and yet the issue seems to be reverberating still.

The position of nationalist policemen and women (and Heffron was certainly that) has been given little public consideration. After an empty formula of platitudes, it appears they’re just routinely abandoned to their fate.

It’s another sin of omission that’s become commonplace in the current simulated hunger games routines that passes for our politics. Last week’s Justin McNulty, the SDLP’s MLA for Newry and Armagh was a notable exception:

It is well worth watching McNulty taking on Gerry Kelly for the weakness in his party’s rather effete official statement that “no one should be marginalised because they choose a career in the PSNI”.

That’s not enough. All young Irish men and women who join the Gardai are young Irish policemen.  Young Irish men and women who joined the PSNI are Irish policemen.

They should be held with the same respect and the same esteem as members of the Gardai. There’s too much ambiguity around that statement. It’s too soft and it needs to be stronger. You need to be firmer.

People who join the police are brave young men and women and they should have our full support. They should be admired by the community for the service they provide, keeping people safe in their homes.

“If you want me to say it, I can say it as well” retorts SF’s Policing spokesman.  [Just another empty formula eh Gerry? – Ed]  Meanwhile, throw another Nationalist cop on the fire?

Okay, that’s flippant. But the underlying point isn’t, which is that individual Nationalists are politically mandated by the Belfast Agreement (which neither the DUP nor SF signed) to serve a legitimised Northern Irish state.

Whatever the transgressions of the cops – and in every democratic space Juvenal’s quis custodiet ipsos custodes is an axiomatic given – the strength of commitment to the wider job they do ought to be unconditional.

McNulty is talking about police regardless of political allegiance, so there really shouldn’t be a distinction. But the Heffron story demonstrates there is a deep weakness in the depth of support our cops actually get.

Much of the focus on “dealing with the past” has been about the unresolved (and possibly unresolvable) issues of past experience. But it should also comprise a strong component of living up to present commitments.

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  • file

    Oh God. Where are the public toilets in Shaftesbury Square? And are they open at 1.45 am?

  • PeterBrown

    No further questions your Worship the prosecution rests – and yes it is a crime (not just my opinion). You will recall some people get very exercised about it when it happens at parades so perhaps it should just be a crime for loyalist bandsmen

  • Accountant

    Self-aggrandisement is not the objective.

    A number of posters have been setting out a lack of support for any of the institutions of the failed unionist state.

    I’m trying to establish whether, for some, this is just a veneer for not wanting to say they won’t support the police.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I think my other comments show that while I’m critical historically of the old RUC, I have always been in support of decent people attempting to do an honest job of policing.

    My own personal experience of the PSNI has been entirely positive and I fully endorse them on that count. I do, however, feel that their role would have been considerably easier to carry out had the intentions behind the Belfast Agreement to undermine all possible criticism of the devolved administration with a Joint Sovereignty arrangement actually been carried out properly.

  • Accountant

    I apologise, Seaan, I think I misinterpreted one of your earlier posts.

    I also believe all our politicians have left PSNI in a more difficult place than they should have.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    We all of us have to try and make things work honestly, and I have had good friends in both police forces across my life. My family have long generational links with the British Army and I’m myself a long term member of the Military History Society of Ireland, from the early 1980s. At its talks in Dublin one meets soldiers from both north and south meeting on genuine areas of cultural engagement. If only our politics could follow the fine example such links set!

  • Dev

    You were not making a point about the RUC?
    Is that why you posted a link to something the RUC didn’t do 20 years ago in order to whatabout something the PSNI are currently not doing?

  • Hawk

    Gonna re-post what I said above:

    “I was not making a point about RUC, but about how the police (now PSNI) are also not investigating senior members of Sinn Fein.”

    It’s literally right there, you asking the question again doesn’t change my answer. Maybe if you read a few times you will at some point get it.

    Glennane is NOT the only legacy investigation that the PSNI are NOT investigating. And nationalists are NOT the only ones who have issues with what the PSNI are NOT investigating. Your ‘bad’.

  • Croiteir

    I would be arguing for the complete disbanding of the PSNI – they are tainted by the incorporation of the discredited RUC and to show a clear cut from the past that is what would be needed.

    We would also need clear lines of inspection and oversight. We cannot expect the PSNI to garner support otherwise.

  • Gary Thompson

    Not perfect? Ok look, we need to live the future despite the past. But please, do not expect one section of the community to condemn physical force if the other refuses to accept and condemn it in full. It doesnt work like that, in fact life doesnt work like that.

  • Dev

    It is right there, I agree, your whataboutery is poor, even by internet standards. You’ve gone from what the RUC did 20 years ago, to pointing out that many legacy issues remain uninvestigated.
    But, you see, here’s the crux, the problem the Judge has with the PSNI (not the RUC) today (not 20 years ago), is not that the Glennane Gang were not investigated, it’s that the PSNI deliberately hobbled an investigation without explanation into a death squad comprised of policemen and soldiers.

  • file

    Thank God for that … the no further questions bit.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    and don’t expect terrorists to ever be accepted as the same as police, for the vast majority of us in these islands

  • Gary Thompson

    The police were the terrorists, thats the problem.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    no they weren’t, Gary

  • babyface finlayson

    You are not really arguing for it though are you?
    This with all due respect seems more like an ideological stance rather than a practical one.
    There is no way the PSNI is going to be disbanded this side of unification. It is nowhere on SF wish list.
    Even if it was you cannot disband the police service and leave a vacuum while yo train up a completely new inexperienced force.
    So I don’t see any realistic argument being made.

  • Gary Thompson

    Yes they were, as were the UDR and as was the fascist Unionist Regime of old.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Republicans have to say that, regardless of the truth of the matter. Whatever.

  • Gary Thompson

    Unionists have to deny it, regardless of the truth of the matter. Whatever.

  • WindsorRocker

    At the time Peadar was joining the PSNI I distinctly remember Sinn Fein spokesmen telling us anyone who joined the PSNI then wasn’t a real Nationalist just a Catholic.

  • WindsorRocker

    The police operate in a legal context driven by the government of the day and that included the RUC btw.
    Commenting on the “political actions” of police is like asking why the sea is the colour it is today.

  • Croiteir

    The current set up is not working well either. Low recruitment rates among Catholics, I would also like to know the breakdown of the figures of those resigning. The PSNI are the RUC with a new wrapper. The compromise that was Patten has been compromised. It too has failed just as Stormont has. And always will unless there is a definite unambiguous Irish element involved with equal authority.

    If there is no way the PSNI are to be dissolved then watch as confidence in the PSNI falls like a stone.
    The PSNI incorporating the RUC need to go. A new start is needed and it needs to happen before the existing setup crumbles.

  • babyface finlayson

    Surely it is more realistic to phase out the ex RUC personnel and continue to promote recruitment amongst Catholics rather than throwing the whole thing out. How would it be done after all?
    What you are looking is a rewriting of the GFA, which is also not going to happen.
    And even if it did I am sure it would be replaced with something very similar, since it was pretty much the best deal achievable.
    So I can’t see any hope at all for what you want in reality.