Williams is an "investigative journalist"
working for the Sunday World tabloid. He wrote
his latest book because over the last few years in
Ireland "organised crime has seen a dramatic
upsurge which seems certain to continue." This
alarmist book presents 21st century Ireland as some
kind of 1930s Chicago. In fact in the 26 counties
the level of crime for the last 17 years has remained
virtually static, and by international standards the
murder rate is not high: in the year 2000 the homicide
rate was 1.48 per 100 000 of the population compared
to 1.97 in Sweden, 2.11 in Scotland and 5.64 in the
USA. (Sunday Business Post 9.11.2003)
book exagerates, but does not investigate the roots
of this alleged upsurge in crime. The author does
not investigate whether there is an intrinsic connection
between the neo-liberalism of the Celtic Tiger and
criminality, or whether drug abuse has something to
do with social and economic marginalisation. Williams
does not explore the structural causes of criminality.
Instead he proposes an "evil individual"
theory of crime. The "Pimpernel", the "Viper",
the "Colonel", the "Westies" and
other godfathers around which the book is centered
are blamed for crime.
good is Paul Williams' investigation of the Irish
underworld? A look at his treatment of the INLA paramilitary
organisation (which occupies about the quarter of
the book) should raise some scepticism as to the overall
value of his journalism. For Williams the INLA is
nothing but a "criminal rabble" with no
cohesive approach to anything apart from criminal
activity, a "flag of convenience for a collection
of dangerous thugs". The point his investigation
is trying to make is that its members are "intrinsically
involved in organised crime" and are using Republican
Socialism as a cover for this.
chapters on the INLA are full of factual inaccuracies,
some of them quite astonishing. According to Williams,
the founder of the organisation, Seamus Costello "styled
the organisation on European Marxist terror groups
such as the Red Brigades and the Bader (sic) Meinhoff"
(93). There is no evidence of this.
Anyone with a mininal knowledge of the history of
the IRSP/INLA knows that Costello wanted to build
an organisation in the Left Republican tradition to
which groups like the RAF are totally foreign. Williams
comes with a most bizarre theory when blaming the
killing of Costello on Belfast-based members of the
INLA who wanted to seize control of the movement (93,
96). In fact, it is beyond doubt that he was killed
by Jim Flynn, of the Official IRA.
someone who presents himself as a serious investigative
journalist, Williams makes serious factual mistakes.
He makes the astonishing claim that in the post 1987
period "over thirty INLA members were murdered
by former friends and associates" (106) Paul
Williams should then supply the reader with a list
of those thirty plus names, because they are nowhere
to be found (in doubt check the most recent edition
of Lost Lives).
author also writes that during the 1996 INLA feud
"most of the old GHQ faction remained loyal to
'Cueball' Torney" (119). Once again, he gets
the facts wrong, because apart from a couple of individuals,
the movement remained unified behind Cueball's opponents.
Williams should go and check the official statements
which were issued by the various people involved then.
not getting the facts wrong, Williams sometimes simply
invents them. He writes that when Veronica Guerin
was assassinated "an official circular from the
IRSP declared that Veronica Guerin had effectively
got what she deserved. They also sent a direct threat
to other crime journalists in the country stating
that they would receive the same treatment."
(121) If this is the case, then he should produce
this 'official circular', because there has never
been such a circular issued by the IRSP.
same goes for his statement that one year after their
1998 ceasefire, "in August 1999 the INLA declared
that their war was officially over." (125) Again,
there have never been any such statement either by
the IRSP or the INLA.
top of that, many minor details reveal the book to
be sloppy. For example, Williams writes that in 1998
the former leader of the IPLO was twenty eight years
old while born in 1960, and systematically spells
Paul Williams' prose is as crude and vulgar as his
political analysis. For example Williams writes of
a certain criminal that "he considered the INLA
to be his own police force and if anyone wanted to
fuck with him (sic) then they would be answerable
to the thugs and thieves in the 'movement'."
(114) Such language and the fact that Williams gets
basic facts wrong should create doubt as to the value
and validity of his general argument. Compared to
serious investigative journalism, such as for example
Vincent Browne's investigations of the Workers Party
and the Official IRA in Magill, Paul Williams' book
constitutes good sensationalism but not very impressive
to the actual remedies to organised criminality, Paul
Williams is implicitly and explicitly calling for
more resources for law enforcement agencies. The author
notes that in 21st century Ireland "law enforcement
is in a state of crisis", not because the the
erosion of civil liberties while evidence grows about
members of the Garda abusing their powers, but because
the government forgot its promises of more officers
and more resources.
book reinforces the media climate encouraging more
drastic laws and tougher policing by exagerating criminality.
It is interesting to note that, as Vincent Browne
reminds us, "by far the greatest piece of organised
crime we have seen here in decades and which won for
the perpetrators of that crime huge proceeds was entirely
ignored by the Criminal Assets Bureau. This was the
mega Dirt Tax fraud perpetrated by the big banks."
(Sunday Business Post, 9.11.2003)
Paul Williams remains entirely silent on these "crimelords".
And the panic measures he calls for can only deepen
the injustice and intensify the alienation on which
Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews +
Letters + Archives