Micheál Martin: In exploiting legacy issues, Sinn Féin is “undermining a fundamental pillar of the peace process”

So the policing controversy rumbles on. Since 1991 when only 8% of the RUC was Catholic until now when the Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan puts it at 32%. The most salient part of this is that the 50/50 recruitment policy only delivered a 9% increase.

The largest part of the change arose from the removal of the threat of death after the official ceasefires. Whilst the SDLP line that the 50/50 recruitment process has merit, the cultural problem with SF’s use of legacy issues to undermine Policing in the here and now is potentially greater.

For his part, Flanagan has argued that:

“I accept the PSNI faces challenges, not least in recruitment where Catholic numbers need to be enhanced. Sinn Féin’s comments are designed to dissuade Catholics from joining and show a total disregard for the process of reconciliation,” the minister said.

Latest figures show that just 32pc of PSNI officers identify as Catholic.

Mr Flanagan said: “Any police service must be representative of its people and more progress needs to be made to encourage Catholics to join the PSNI.

“The comments of Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin some months back about encouraging more Catholics to join the PSNI are welcome and positive in contrast to the constant negativity and undermining by Sinn Féin.”

BBC NI’s Newline led with a fine piece from Enda McClafferty showing how such coldness is transmitted back into Catholic civil society. Most intriguing was (01:58 in) Ray McCartney’s advice to anyone wanting to join the PSNI which was to come and ask him privately:

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[Aye, right Ray. Not many coming to see you, you say? There’s a surprise. Not! – Ed] It’s certainly a novel form of contempt for a perfectly proper question about a matter of acute public interest, proving once again how NI has become an accountability-free zone.

As ever, Allison Morris puts her finger on how the office of the Ombudsman’s unfortunate position as sole arbiter of past injustices is helping to slowly poison both the present and the future of Northern Ireland:

I remember reporting on the changeover at the time. With a Policing Board and a Police Ombudsman, the PSNI promised to be a fair, independent and accountable service. There were those early optimistic days when all seemed like it would be a brighter, better world. But like everything in this place the past came back to haunt us.

The ombudsman, appointed to oversee policing the present, has since had the office role reversed to an investigator of the past.

This has damaged relations between that office and the PSNI and also within the unionist community. Unionists who still feel ownership of the RUC see probes into past conduct as an attack on them.

It is a position the ombudsman should never have been put into. It was not the intended role of that office. [Emphasis added]

The leader of Fianna Fáil was rather more direct on Newstalk last night, taking an unscheduled detour from a discussion of Sinn Féin’s flip-flopping tactics on elections in the south and accused them of “undermining confidence in a fundamental pillar of the peace process”:

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Martina Devlin: ‘If a hard Border is enforced, it will bring back a stressful,frightening and humiliating ordeal for ordinary people’” by Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916 is licensed under CC BY-ND