Category: Archive

Dublin Report North police riddled with the cancer of sectarianism

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John Kelly

There was nothing surprising about the damning Complaints Commission Report into the RUC, certainly nothing that will surprise either John Stalker or John Stevens, two British police officials who were once called in to investigate serious complaints, including RUC collusion in blatantly sectarian violence and murder.

Both were withdrawn after short sorties to extract evidence that was never really forthcoming. The few facts they did establish were as grudging as a charitable donations from a miser. They failed in their tasks because the necessary cooperation was not forthcoming. Nobody in authority insisted that it should have been.

There is nothing as crooked as a crooked cop. There is nothing as corrupt as a defender of law and order who uses the rules to subvert the system for individual gain. A society that tolerates such action is a society in peril.

The United States has had plenty of experience in dealing with corrupt cops, all the way back to Al Capone and beyond. It also has some experience with a police force that is hostile to the people it is supposed to protect. The batons, the drawn guns and the snarling dogs of the civil rights days in places like Selma, Ala., are not very far away.

The U.S. government, through its federal agents, finally dealt with the social cancer in the only way that it could. The full rigor of the law was applied to cops who dared to flout the Constitution by refusing to apply the freedoms it guarantees.

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When it became clear that some of the offending officers had been protected from the risk of prosecution by superiors who were aware of what they had done, those superiors were removed. Some police served substantial jail terms.

Not so with the RUC.

Investigations have been halted by various British government ministers almost as soon as they became aware that they were getting too near the truth — and the potentially painful political consequences that might ensue.

The investigating officers were recalled.

The Complaints Commission has produced a damning report that supports almost every allegation made by Rosemary Nelson, a courageous lawyer and mother killed by a loyalist bomb.

She was a woman who was in the same mold as the late Pat Finucane, another lawyer killed by loyalists, probably with the collusion of at least one member of British intelligence, because he dared to take on the Northern establishment.

Both risked their lives to defend known republicans and nationalists. And both lost.

It has become something of a journalistic clichT to underline the other side of the argument: that there are indeed decent men and women within the beleaguered ranks of the RUC, many of whom were among the 300 killed, generally by republicans, within the last 30 years of conflict.

There is no doubt about that. But the RUC cannot always defend the indefensible by coming up with the customary defense that there are always rotten apples in every barrel. That is also obviously true. However, it only means that they have to be thrown out of the barrel. There is no evidence to suggest that senior officers have ever taken such actions.

There is solid evidence instead to the effect that they have systematically attempted to stymie inquiries and investigations. Whether they have done so for the protection of their subordinates, for their own protection, or simply because they just don’t understand their own in-built prejudices is moot.

The investigators on the independent Complaints Commission established to their complete satisfaction that they did not obtain sufficient support from many RUC officers in pursuit of the facts.

It is now apparent that members of the force had often intimidated the late Rosemary Nelson as she attempted to pursue her client’s rights. Members of the commission even reported that one officer had reported for interview four hours late, smelling of drink.

Some even expressed their belief that the most derogatory rumors concerning the murdered lawyer were correct. Others simply displayed almost complete indifference to allegations of intimidation.

Most important, the report clearly concluded that it might be impossible for the RUC to satisfactorily investigate such complaints because there prevails a culture that would immediately attempt to stifle any such attempts.

This is the most serious finding of all. It should make it clear to the world at large that the RUC is historically sectarian and is probably irredeemable without an absolute, root and branch, clear out.

It was always thus. From the outset, it was nothing less than a paramilitary organization, the only armed police force within the United Kingdom solemnly charged with the protection of Northern Ireland.

Among its numbers was the notorious B-Specials, all Protestants, all voluntary, part-time policemen within their own divided communities. There was never the slightest possibility that the “B-men” could be anything other than sectarian.

By extension, the inherent sectarianism of the greater RUC merely reflects the reality of Northern Ireland itself. The conclusion should be obvious.

If the RUC is beyond self-redemption, then so is Northern Ireland. By the same token, if the RUC is inherently sectarian, then it is so because Northern Ireland, the entity it is sworn to protect, is sectarian in itself. One merely reflects the ugly reality of the other.

This much has become obvious to many alert loyalists who fear that official tinkering with the RUC is only a precursor to tinkering with the administration of the North itself.

The fear is well grounded. But no matter the consequences, the RUC cannot be allowed to continue as it has. Neither can it be allowed to exist unless it is changed beyond recognition.

In fact, only if it is changed, can Northern Ireland be steered into becoming a genuine, nonsectarian democratic state with institutions that are acceptable to all sections of the population. This is the only possible outcome if the peace process is to succeed.

It’s a tall order, but the first big bite on the menu must be the RUC itself.

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