PSNI blunder into PR disaster of their own making…

You really do wonder what the police were thinking yesterday when they blundered their way into a private commemoration of the 29th anniversary of 1992 Sean Graham bookmakers atrocity. As well as disturbing the event they decided to go even further and arrest one of the victims. Such gross insensitivity you could not make up. Coming just days after the police stood idle and watched dozens of UVF men parading in East Belfast, the police have opened themselves up to …

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How are we really doing compared to the south and GB? The public health and economic positions of coronavirus for Northern Ireland need more searching inquiry

North -south differences of approach to Covid 19 are hampering the chances of saving lives, according to an epidemiologist Prof Gabriel Scally.  He brings apparent authority to differences which have been aired politically but not as far as I’ve seen among other  experts. These differences should surely be resolved at a north-south ministerial meeting today. Scally writes in the Irish News.. The advice to someone in Lifford with symptoms of the disease is to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 …

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What’s in the Coronavirus Bill?

This week the government intends to push its Coronavirus Bill through Parliament. In its “summary of impacts” document, the government states that the bill is “temporary, emergency legislation” which intends to “provide powers needed to respond to the current coronavirus epidemic.” MPs will be expected to grapple with the 300-page bill over the course of a few days. It will, for as long as it is in operation, fundamentally change our way of life. The legislation represents the biggest diminution …

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Lord Patten of Barnes speaking in Belfast to mark 20th anniversary of Equality Commission and Human Rights Commission #video

Lord Patten of Barnes addressed an audience in Belfast City Hall last night to mark the 20th anniversary of the Equality Commission and the NI Human Rights Commission. Michael Wardlow finishes his eight years as chief commissioner at the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland today. Deputy chief commissioner Geraldine McGahey has been appointed as his successor.

How the space vacated by local politics puts the police into an invidious position…

Our understanding is shaped by our perception. How we perceive is how we think. A trio of burials had ‘armed struggle’ advocates honour the patriot dead in demonstrations laced with race hatred of the British. Quick on their heels, a loyalist parade full of British symbolism, including the soldier F logo. In May, gunmen in balaclavas fired shots before Peter ‘Pepe’ Rooney (63) was laid to rest. Rooney was in a PIRA unit at the final stages of mounting a …

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Northern Ireland’s justice system weathers the storms of controversy in the continuing vacuum from government

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan  Still no word of a decision on the Legacy Bill and no surprise there either. The justice system ploughs on with handling legacy cases against a background of continuing controversy.  The Daily Telegraph’s campaign against former soldiers having to face trial continues, with the  “disgusted” reaction by appellant  78 year old Dennis Hutchings  to the Supreme Court’s decision that he will face trial by a judge alone. The real objection, held by a strong …

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“we need to remove legacy policing from contemporary policing…”

A timely reminder, should one be needed, from Newton Emerson in the Irish Times this week, that when Sinn Féin talk about ‘agreement’ on the “need to remove legacy policing from contemporary policing” what they mean is “No prosecutions, please.”  From Newton Emerson in the Irish Times It is all or nothing on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles. Either all sides must face the same prospect of prosecutions and convictions, or all sides must be given an amnesty …

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Karen Bradley ought to know that Northern Ireland’s past is a “nightmare of twisted motives”

Regular readers of Slugger will know I don’t believe in pulling punches on the fugue state that Northern Irish nationalism presently finds itself in. But there matters are not helped by a counter indulgence of the core problem. Given Cameron’s parliamentary apology to Derry, it was either naive (or just plain ignorant) for Karen Bradley to suggest that all state killings were legal. Some, perhaps many, probably were. But this clearly does not apply to the victims of Bloody Sunday. …

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Bloody Sunday prosecutions would ” turn the stomachs of the British people” – Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

Full story from the Sunday Times. Would  a retrospective amnesty be legal? Army veterans will be protected from prosecution for alleged historic abuses under plans to introduce a 10-year limit on new cases, The Sunday Times can reveal. Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, is expected to bring forward the proposed legislation in this year’s Queen’s speech after growing pressure on the government to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The disclosure comes amid claims that four army …

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Amnesty looks further away than ever if Bloody Sunday comes to trial. Despite the inevitable political rows, even this weakest of governments will not be able to duck further action

Suddenly, over historic cases stretching back  almost half a century, legal developments   are emerging that inject a new – and to me unexpected – momentum into dealing with the past. The hard pressed PSNI,  so eager to hand over its role in historic cases to  the proposed Historic Investigations Unit, has done its controversial  job over Bloody Sunday and John Downey. Inevitably in Northern Ireland, reaction to this fresh impetus could overtake Brexit as a divisive issue – at least …

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“Fair employment and equal opportunities legislation are built upon open and transparent practices, free from political interference…”

The, at best, ill-considered comments by Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald yesterday, on potential candidates from within the PSNI to succeed George Hamilton as Chief Constable, have prompted a sharp reminder from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to the NI Policing Board of its responsibilities under equality legislation to recruit in a non-discriminatory way. The Equality Commission has expressed its concern about the recent comments made by the Sinn Féin President about the appointment of a new Chief …

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The arrested Loughinisland massacre journalists are pawns in a legacy struggle

More details have been revealed by the journalist Susan McKay   about the circumstances of the arrest of the two journalists who researched Alex Gibney’s  exposé documentary No Stone Unturned.  The film gives a compelling account of alleged police negligence and collusion between some police officers and the murderers who committed the Loughinisland massacre in 1994, killing six people and wounding five when they burst into the Heights bar and sprayed it with bullets. The Ombudsman cleared one police commander.   Trevor …

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With 80% of police recruits now coming from the Unionist community, is this another example of how Northern Ireland is regressing?

The Irish Times is reporting that the number of Nationalists joining the PSNI is continuing to decline, and they may need to reinstate the 50/50 recruitment policy. Four out of five recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are from the Protestant community compared to just one from the Catholic community, the PSNI has disclosed. If this trend continues then politicians will have to consider reinstituting the 50:50 Catholic:Protestant system of recruitment, the PSNI deputy chief constable Stephen Martin indicated on Monday. Under …

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The arrest of two journalists is a symptom of a bankrupt system for dealing with the Troubles legacy, with no solution in sight

The arrest and interrogation of two journalists  suspected of stealing documents  in connection  with  the making the film documentary No Stone Unturned on the Loughinisland murders, is a perfect example of how the current handing of the Troubles legacy is deeply unsatisfactory. In the present vacuum, the PSNI, which still retains  front-line legacy responsibilities,  seems to feel bound  to  be seen doing something, even in cases where they look self interested, counterproductive and downright foolish.  On the face of it …

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Border issues are difficult enough without manufacturing a phoney one

In response to Fionnbhar’s post, Newton has said  most of what needs to be said. Debate over tariffs and regulations has been conflated with security to a ludicrous, irresponsible degree. Whatever shape Brexit takes, it can be made clear now that terrorist threats will be dealt with as they are dealt with already – by intelligence-led policing across Ireland. The latest kerfuffle over a  open or a hard border is just one example of a prevailing paradox. That in a …

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“almost in the space of trying to undermine confidence in the new Garda Commissioner…”

To Brian’s pointed question about Leo, Mary Lou and Drew, I’d add another. What does Mary Lou’s Dail offensive tell us about SF’s attitude to the new and fairly (as far as we can tell) appointed Garda Commissioner and the mechanism of the southern state? Like their attack on the Special Criminal in the week the Hutch-Kinihan feud began (ie, in the first week of the last southern General Election) it perhaps suggests the SF leader is bound to an …

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What does Drew Harris’s appointment as Garda Commissioner tell us about Fine Gael’s attitude to Sinn Fein?

In the Irish Times Ed Moloney has a fascinating backgrounder on the ground breaking appointment of   PSNI Deputy Chief Constable  Drew Harris as Garda Commissioner. Might we now  expect that senior Garda officers will at last become eligible  to head the PSNI?  Or does  history suggest that a single force to serve the entire state creates too introverted a culture to adapt to elsewhere, even to the North?   Drew Harris brings heavy baggage with him and his  appointment will have …

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Veil of secrecy over Special Branch informer system lifted a chink as the Finucanes make their bid to the Supreme Court

The Guardian lead on the Walker report ( no relation), neatly coincides with the opening of the Finucane family’s bid to the Supreme Court to order a public inquiry into Pat Finucane’s murder.  The “secret”  report by a former head of MI5  complied in 1980 – nine years before he was murdered –  was  “the blueprint for making RUC special branch a ‘force within a force’, according to the human rights legal group the Committee on the Administration for Justice …

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Avoid a battle of the narratives. The Chief Constable and Police Ombudsman appeal for agreement emerging from the proposed legacy process

Eamonn Mallie has published  transcripts of Chief Constable George Hamilton and Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire addressing a gathering at Queen’s University on the approaches they hope will be  adopted on the consultation just launched on dealing with the past. I shamelessly share them with warm thanks to Eamonn. Both  men plead for responders not to adopt a polarised or polemical position right from the start and take the broader view that works for reconciliation. They also call for a …

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Don’t you know who I am?

As the BBC reports Sinn Féin has confirmed that one of their MLA’s has removed a clamp from the front wheel of his car, using what appears to be bolt cutters, in Belfast. In a statement, a spokesperson for the party confirmed that Gerry Kelly removed the clamp at about 07:20 GMT on Friday outside a gym. A recording of the incident has been posted on social media. The Belfast Telegraph report notes The footage was captured in the Exchange …

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