By Patrick Markey
To e-mail or not to e-mail, that was the question!
An Irish-American internet discussion group whose members debate topics relating to Ireland, but especially politics, has refused to allow the Royal Ulster Constabulary to join its ranks.
Jackie Dana, who manages the IRL-Discussion internet debating group, said she received an e-mail application in early October from a sender whose address was listed as email@example.com. Since applicants to the debating group need to be approved, Dana sent an e-mail back asking why they wanted to join.
"Initially, we were curious whether they were doing it for bona fide reasons or just to collect information," she said. The group’s membership includes republicans and activists from countries as diverse as Norway and Australia.
The reply stated that under the RUC’s "strategic plan to enhance" relations between the community and police, the organization was reaching out at all levels of discussion, and had contacted the IRL site because of its concentration on Irish politics, Dana said.
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After posting a notice to members, who discussed the application, the request was denied. Dana said although some members thought the application should be approved on the basis of freedom of speech, most believed that having a police organization, and specifically the RUC, as a body in the group would intimidate members and curtail expression of opinions.
An RUC spokesman in Belfast could not confirm that a specific e-mail application was sent to the group, but he said it was very likely given the current climate of trying to find out as much as possible about community views.
The RUC was actively seeking out discussion of views from the community and opinion leaders to help in its drive to decentralize and tailor policing services to the community needs, he said.
It was strange that in light of the trend toward inclusion that such a request would be refused, the spokesman said.
"It would seem a shame to attempt to exclude the RUC from discussion," he said.