Sinn Féin won't make the same mistake twice
So Sinn Féin won't be endorsing the PSNI or joining the Policing Board any time soon. As Gerry Adams pointed out on Saturday, there's not much likelihood of the legislation being passed and the DUP agreeing to accept the democratic decision of the vast majority of people on this island before the new Policing Board is up and running in April.
Adams is quite right to tie this all into a package because self-evidently that's what it is.
Joining the Policing Board before the legislation is through Westminster would be like going to the bookies to collect your winnings with your horse in the final furlong of a steeplechase. Sinn Féin have been badly burnt by the double-dealing of the British administration here on the on the run legislation. They're not going to make the same mistake twice in six months. Anyway, the DUP's not even talking to Sinn Féin.
That aside, there are many other considerations which prevent Sinn Féin from endorsing the PSNI. Our visiting British rulers conveniently forget SF stood for election last May and received an increased vote and an extra MP on a manifesto committing them to withhold support from policing until there is new legislation allowing devolution of justice and police powers to a northern executive.
Perhaps just as important, those same transient British politicians have not picked up the growing anger and frustration among nationalists at the refusal of the PSNI or anyone else in authority to deal with loyalist terrorism and the evidence of continuing collusion between the police and loyalists who have murdered both Catholics and Protestants since the Good Friday Agreement.
Just as disquieting is the revolving-door policy operated by the courts here when loyalists are arraigned. There is a manifest imbalance in giving bail to loyalists compared to republicans. Even worse is the failure of the prosecution service and the Assets Recovery Agency to act against prominent loyalists except when one of their rivals kills them.
It is well known that one of the reasons for this failure is that the self-proclaimed shiny new police are still protecting loyalist informers taken on the payroll, in some cases more than a decade ago. Everyone knows the fruitless efforts of Mr McCord to get the UVF killers of his son, men personally known to him, prosecuted. Equally well known is that the police are protecting a UVF man in Mount Vernon who has killed maybe as many as a dozen people in his murderous career. How many other informers?
We now hear that the police took back on the payroll their agent, the notorious Greysteel and Castlerock killer, Torrens Knight, after he was released early from multiple life sentences under the terms of the GFA. Is it true? Who authorised payments to him, said to total £50,000 a year?
Certainly not some sergeant. That kind of disgraceful misuse of public money can only have been sanctioned by a very senior official. Do you think this is the only instance of such corruption of the administration of justice?
How many more are there?
Now the hopeless consequence of this state of affairs is that John Dallat, the SDLP's Lone Ranger in East Derry, is left complaining bitterly about police inaction in the case of Knight. His very indignation shows that the PSNI is not accountable through the Policing Board and thereby makes Sinn Féin's case.
Oh yeah, sure, the quick answer is that the Ombudsman is inquiring into this mess, so wait until her report comes out later this year. Not good enough.
Why couldn't the Policing Board get anything done on its own initiative? Just wait until that Ombudsman's report is published. What a stinker that will be.
Wouldn't Sinn Féin have looked sick sitting on the Policing Board demonstrating their own impotence?
Finally and perhaps most serious of all, is the incredibly stupid decision to hand control of intelligence over to MI5. As if they ever lost it?
This plan will reduce the PSNI to the arresting arm of MI5 just as RUC Special Branch was. MI5 are completely unaccountable to anyone in the north and have precious little accountability to anyone in Britain. Now, why would Sinn Féin endorse policing here any time soon? They're not daft.
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