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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Political Police

Anthony McIntyre • August 2005

Walking down the Lower Falls's Albert Street en route to a relative's funeral a matter of days ago, a PSNI land rover passed alongside me cruising city ward. Even if the colour has changed from grey to white the distinctive whirr emitted by its engine has remained the same, letting you know it is in the vicinity before it comes into view. Before turning into McDonnell Street I paused to watch the vehicle as it stopped, the occupants disembark, spread out and begin to run. It is a familiar manoeuvre. The cops seek to surround the house they intend to call at in a bid to ensure nobody hotfoots it out the back or via other possible exit routes. In all probability it amounted to nothing more than chasing some sixteen year old for joy riding.

The British conservative philosopher, Roger Scruton has argued that 'law is constrained at every point by reality.' We may wonder then what strange reality was at play in interpreting the needs of the law in West Belfast. At a time when loyalists openly strut the streets of the North plying their murderous hate trade, the enforcers of the law were scrambling through Albert Street most definitely not in pursuit of loyalist petrol bombers. Catholic residents of Ahoghill are living in fear of their lives, Thomas Devlin is murdered on a mission to buy sweets, Protestant men are being gunned down in the street by the ceasefire UVF, chapels are under siege. The Albert Street sprint was so out of character with the PSNI sedentary stance in Garnerville last month when their eagerness to uphold the law being broken under their noses was insufficient to persuade them to dismount from their jeeps. The UVF and UDA, in a rare display of unity, gathered to expel the families of a common opponent from their homes. Doubtless, included in the ranks of the mob were some who probably have been up to their necks in recent murders. Evening all - steady as she goes boys. Even those who are prepared to endorse the PSNI will find it hard to point to a comparable scene like played out in a nationalist community.

Since it was caught flatfooted by the Northern Bank robbery, the PSNI has faced a mounting credibility problem. It has been lambasted over its inability to curb the upsurge in armed attacks on cash security vans, and has taken flak for its violence on the streets of Derry in May. It caused controversy when one of its patrols knocked down and killed West Belfast man Jim McMenamin in June. Its less than robust response to the loyalist feud, and its failure to protect one section of the community from the type of attacks that have been carried out by hate mongers in Ahoghill, have raised the old spectre of a partisan police force. Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton's initial observations that sectarianism was not a factor in some of the attacks by Antrim bigots left observers exasperated.
While many nationalists would accept that the knife killers of Robert McCartney and those of Thomas Devlin inhabit the same moral universe, they must think they stand pretty much alone on the issue. The outcry over the Devlin murder has at no point approached the volume generated by the McCartney killing. There has been nothing like the same political and media attention and few expect the Devlin family to be guests at the White House. Many must hold genuine fears that the chances of the PSNI pursuing the killers of Thomas Devlin with maximum resolve must be slim.

These shortcomings are not the result of the PSNI being little other than a renamed RUC bringing with it all the sectarian baggage of yesteryear. All but the most traditional of republicans accept that the PSNI, while unquestionably a British police force, is a considerable improvement on the last British police force that London constructed for its difficult to manage offshore citizens. The malaise that afflicts the PSNI is more structural than attitudinal. Having picked up the 'primacy of the police' baton, it can do little else but slot into the traditional role of a British police force in the North of Ireland. It is the cutting edge of British state political strategy, and must police the peace process, every bit as much as the RUC policed the war. The imperatives and constraints of that process govern policing every bit as much as they do other areas of policy. Fudge, deceit, double standards and ambiguity prevail. The central policy question for the British is not 'what is just?' but 'who can we least risk upsetting?

It doesn't matter in the slightest what the attitudes of individual PSNI members happen to be. It is not attitude but government policy that keeps them in their jeeps while murderous gangsters strut through Garnerville. A genuine policing approach would not manifest itself in such a fashion. As ever, policing and the rule of law have been subverted in order that they may dovetail with the self serving political rule of the British state.















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

7 November 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Mary McGurk — Giving Voice to the Abandoned
Anthony McIntyre

It Is Only the Intellectually Lost Who Ever Argue
Marc Kerr

Prospects for the Left in Ireland
Eugene Mc Cartan

Bartering the Infinities
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

The Political Police
Anthony McIntyre

Herrema's Kidnapper Explains Motive
Eamonn McCann

Revenge is a Dish Served Cold
Dr John Coulter

Causes and Effects
Mick Hall

Speaking Truth to Power
Fred Wilcox

The Bush SATaff Goes to Morals School
Mary La Rosa

A View of the H-Blocks
Anthony McIntyre

23 October 2005

Badges? We Don't Need No Stinkin Badges
Mags Glennon

A Long Way Down
Anthony McIntyre

A Party of Their Own
Mick Hall

Reid's Sectarian Slur
Eamon McCann

Repeal Anti-Catholic Section of Act of Settlement 1701
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Nicola McCartney & the Facts About Irish History
Seaghán Ó Murchu

Usual Suspects
Anthony McIntyre

Socialism in Ireland
Francis McDonnell

Turning "Smoke ban" thing into ANTI-DIOXIN movement
John Jonik

From the Classroom to the Grave
Anthony McIntyre

Yet More Voices Against Censorship
Davy Carlin

The Death Fast Enters its 6th Year
Tayad Committee

Setting Up Abbas
Jeff Halper



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