The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Getting It All Wrong
Crimelords by Paul Williams (Dublin, Merlin Publishing, 2003)
£9.99, ISBN 1-903582-51-2
Liam O Ruairc • 17.11.03

Paul 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)

The 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.

How 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.

The 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.

For 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).

The 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.

When 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.

The 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.

On 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 "expatriate" "ex-patriot".

Finally, 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 analysis.

As 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.

His 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)

Yet, 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 crime grows.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

18 November 2003


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Belief in Santa Claus
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Getting It All Wrong
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Castlewellan Arrests
Green Party


Inductive Writing Doesn't Make It So
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Call for Boycott
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