The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Changing Fortunes

When one tears away the veils and shows them naked, people's souls give off such a pungent smell of decay - Octave Mirbeau

Anthony McIntyre • 10 January 2005

Driving through a rainy Belfast on Friday morning, accompanied by two other journalists, there was no heightened sense of anticipation that something new might be learned at the imminent press conference to be given by Hugh Orde. Speculation had been rife throughout the previous twenty-four hours that the finger of blame for the Northern Bank robbery was going to point unambiguously in the direction of the Provisional IRA. From news first broke about the event at the start of Christmas week, the 'common sense' on the ground, and virtually everywhere else, had eliminated all others as potential contenders.

The venue at the Clarendon Docks headquarters of the Policing Board was packed with journalists. The PSNI press team had laid on tea, coffee and sandwiches for hungry hacks who might have to wait around a bit. The buzz of conversation that had filled the room tapered off as soon as Hugh Orde, Sam Kincaid and the PSNI press secretary entered.

Orde seemed the more relaxed of the two cops. He exuded a certain confidence as he eyed his audience, weighing up the challenge. If he spotted any wolves there he showed little sign of alarm. Kincaid appeared subdued. Perhaps that is his usual demeanour but if journalists were scenting a weakness they may have felt it was from the Assistant Chief Constable that they would draw first blood.

When he spoke, Hugh Orde was resolute. He must have sensed instinctively that much of the credibility the British police force in the North had built up with him at its helm was in danger of melting in front of his eyes. The earlier much vaunted professionalism had been hit by a pre-Christmas robbery of tsunami proportion which capsized it. Twenty minutes after he had delivered his opening lines Orde had steadied his vessel. From the discourse of the journalists present it was clear that Britain's top cop in Ireland had put down an anchor. Suddenly, his force was moored and it was the turn of the opposition, cut adrift from public credibility, to flounder in a choppy sea.

The simple act of unambiguously fingering the Provisional IRA had transformed Orde's fortunes. Had he blamed the UDA, St Vincent de Paul or some other group then his passage would have been much less secure. Whose head would roll for not pre-empting it, would have been the theme from the floor. But the newsworthiness no longer lay in his force's inability to prevent the world's largest cash bank robbery. The charge that the Provisional Republican Movement had settled so comfortably in the unfathomable depths of political cynicism had the news field all to itself.

Orde spoke for about ten minutes, and took questions from the assembled press for the same amount of time. Only in the closing comments of his monologue did he make the charge that the Provisionals were responsible. There were no exclamations of shock or deep inhalations of breath. He had hardly told us that his force had discovered Ian Paisley was a Catholic. We knew what he would say. On finishing, the press pack turned into a mob shouting over each other. One journalist gave what his colleagues described as a party political broadcast on behalf of Sinn Fein, before Orde cut him short. Another berated the PSNI boss for telling journalists anything that might damage the peace process. I kept my hand up throughout but my reward was a sore shoulder. Courtesy gets stampeded at big story press conferences, where 'first shout first served' seems to be the only rule observed by all.

The one weak point of the Orde delivery came when he tried to protect his force from allegations that it was completely blindsided by the robbery. His intimation that this was not true led to a justifiable demand for an explanation as to why such intelligence was not acted on. Orde hesitated and faltered somewhat before recovering. In days to come he may have cause to regret that he did not concede the point on the intelligence debacle, cut his losses and run. Few would have been interested in pursuing him on that, with another juicier hare firmly in sight. Now he has provided a side dish, which some might turn to when the main course digests itself.

We had hardly left the press conference when reports began to filter through that the Sinn Fein lie machine was taxiing down the runway. When it came to the bit, it never took off. There was no fuel to power it, having been used up telling earlier lies. Few were taking up the party's invitations to come on board. Been there too often in the past, seemed to be the prevalent view. These days the lies are not even told in a new manner. Same stale old guff about securocrats trying to wreck the peace process; same as when the Stakeknife informer allegations surfaced; same as every other time. For a party that for long praised itself for being imaginative, it fails hopelessly when it comes to massaging the lie with even a modicum of imagination. Given that it lies as often as others would take a drink of water, perhaps the practice has become ritualised and commonplace. Nobody dresses up just to go to the water tap.

The only thing that resembled the Sinn Fein performance and that of the bank robbers was sheer audacity. But the imagination, ingenuity, organisational skill and professional brilliance that deprived the Northern Bank of 26.5 million were simply not evident in the endeavours of the lie machine. The image of mismatched twins was hard to escape. One, tight, trim, fit, energetic and direct; the other, a fat fumbling liar, too gorged on the good life to even work up the energy to use a tiny fraction of the imagination of the robbers.

The irony is that even if the Provisional IRA has been wrongly accused, the Sinn Fein lie machine has exhausted any residual trust that might have given it the benefit of the doubt. The boy cried 'securocrat' once too often.




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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

10 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

SF - Securocrat Fantasists
Anthony McIntyre

Mick Hall

Merge Ahead?
Dr John Coulter

DPP Cover-up RUC/PSNI Malpractice Yet Again
32 CSM Press Release

RSF Are The Sole Inheritors of the Sinn Fein Mantle
Des Dalton, RSF

Óglaigh na hÉireann New Year Statement 2005

The Caged Men
Ruairi O'Driscoll

Changing Fortunes
Anthony McIntyre

7 January 2005

Northern Bank - Open All Day Monday
Anthony McIntyre

2005: New Year's Statement from the 32 County Sovereignty Movement
Francis Mackey

In the Underworld with the Trigger Men
Sean Mc Aughey

Racism as a Prelude to War Crimes
Ghali Hassan

Palestinian Elections: Charting the Future of Palestine
Haithem El-Zabri



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