The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Hope For Justice

Mick Hall • March 2005

Whilst it may be common practice for those who live in the leafy suburbs to rely, if the need arises, on the police and to view them with admiration and respect, within working class communities like the Short Strand life is not quite so simple.

Without highlighting this particular community, it is worth analysing why millions of working class people throughout the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have what can only be described as a jaundiced relationship with her Majesties Constabulary and the Garda Síochána. When we are doing this, there is one statistic that one should keep in mind: one in three males between the ages of sixteen to twenty five will have some sort of criminal record, having been through the criminal justice system on at least one occasion.

Even these days within most working class communities, bar the pub there are few amenities where youngsters can socialise, especially the age group sixteen to eighteen. Legally those who fall within this age group are to young for the pub, yet too old for the youth club. Thus their natural habitat is the shop doorway and street corner. It is more often than not, whilst these youngster are hanging out in these places, they have their first direct experience of those we anoint to provide us at street level with law and order. It is very often a bruising experience.

Police officers, often not much older than them, harass these youngsters, because their presence on the street corners offends and intimidates the rest of us. Thus the kids are shepherded from one street corner to the next, pockets turned out and names taken in the process. Of course it being in his nature, when the police move on down the street, the devil often makes work for idle hands and some of these youngsters then commit low level but socially disruptive crimes, which brings them into the orbit of the criminal justice system.

As to the parents of these youngsters, the only time they come into contact with the police will be when the latter is representing the State as a blunt instrument.

Perhaps they will be called to the local Police Station because their offspring has been arrested for one of those aforementioned anti social crimes, or if involved in an industrial dispute it will appear to them and not without reason, the police are doing the bidding of the bosses. The same is true if they feel strongly about certain issues and take part in a demonstration or public protest; and when, due to a bad patch, the bailiffs arrive at the door for an unpaid bill and they refuse to hand over their treasured possessions, they are more often than not accompanied by the police who make sure they do.

For these reasons and a host of other petty slights, a culture has instilled itself within working class consciousness where respect for the police just does not exist; a level of tolerance perhaps, but respect no, for respect has to be earned.

Within most working class communities only one crime would automatically be reported to the police without hesitation and that is sexual offences against children. But other crimes would take a wee bit of thought before the local plods' number is dialled, although these days if one is the victim of a property crime, your car is stolen or house burgled then needs must, as it would be impossible to claim on the insurance without a crime sheet number.

Assault of the person is a very grey area indeed, as can be seen by the fact that on any Friday or Saturday night, in hundreds of towns and cities throughout the UK and ROI, thousands of drunken scuffles or brawls take place without the police being called, the overwhelming majority of them petering out, with both parties going home to lick their wounds or savour their victory. The fact that Robert McCartney himself, when he first left the pub after the original fracas with his killers, appears to have had no thought of calling the PSNI is in itself an example of this, although he was not to know that the group of merciless thugs he had walked away from were to follow him out of Magennis's Bar and attack him once again.

What I have described above is how most working class communities react to the police. Within the north of Ireland, especially in areas like the Short Strand, you have also to add in the explosive political, sectarian and historical mix; by so doing you can multiply the above mentioned hostility to the police ten fold.

Having done so it becomes easier to understand why few people have come forward as witnesses to the brutal murder of Robert McCartney. Yes, there has been intimidation by the PIRA, but in itself I doubt this is the overriding factor at work here. Especially now that Gerry Adams, to his credit, has all but absolved any who come forward and give evidence against the killers. Make no mistake, however, no matter what happens in the long run, when the dust has settled, anyone who comes forward and gives evidence will be forever known as an informer by a section within this community. It is all very well for politicians and journalists to claim otherwise but it is not their head, nor that of their family on the block.

I have some personal experience of a similar situation, although thankfully no one lost their lives. Some years ago a friend of mine, not close but nevertheless a friend, due to a case of mistaken identity was badly beaten by a doorman at a local club. He was taken to hospital and the police became involved. The doorman, who was a particularly unpleasant individual, was charged with GBH. A date was set for the trial at which my friend would be the main prosecution witness. The "security consultant" who employed the doorman approached me to ask my friend if he would consider dropping the charges (refuse to testify), if the doorman apologised and made financial restitution. In other words the doorman would say sorry and give my mate a bung for his pains. I did as I was asked and passed on to my friend the offer made by the "security consultant".

He asked my advice, although I new he would not take it as he had made up his mind as to his course of action. Nevertheless I advised him to take the bung, as this thing would come back to haunt him if he did not. I said this not because I thought the doorman did not deserve to be punished, but for two reasons. Firstly my friend was a loner, he kept himself to himself, and thus I felt if he were to testify, he would not have the support base he would need to draw on to get through this thing.

Secondly the doorman worked for the "security consultant" who I have mentioned, who happened to have good relations with the local police. The latter is something that outsiders often fail to understand. The police within their area will have a working relationship with those who are at the top of the criminal fraternity, who pass on information to the police about local hoods further down the food chain. This allows the police to clear up their crime statistic and keep a resemblance of order; in return they often turn a blind eye to the "security consultants" activities.

In this context I found it interesting the Chief Constable of the PSNI was reported as saying his officers regularly met members of the PIRA. One can only guess at what is being discussed at these meetings.

Still I digress. My friend replied bollix, the bastard should pay and it was difficult to disagree with him, especially as it was not I who had suffered a beating to within an inch of life. He testified and the doorman got a paltry six months and on his release was soon back working the very same door.

However in time my friend became the victim of a whispering campaign and received the odd anonymous threats. The police did not wish to know, saying they could do nothing unless he was assaulted. For the police he had become yesterday's business, and in any case they had no wish to go up against the "security consultant" as he was one of their main sources.

Due to the drip drip of this low level intimidation, my friend's life became pretty miserable and he rarely went out; eventually he could take it no more and he moved away to start again.

It was all very sad. Whilst the majority of people who knew what he was going through admired my friend for the courage he had shown in testifying in open court and sympathised with his predicament, they were powerless to do anything about it, as all the threats and smears were carried out in an underhand manner and could be and indeed were denied. When I approached the "security consultant" to ask him to put a stop to what was going on, he replied, "Mick, these things just don't go away, you know, they don't, they have a momentum of their own." As they say sympathy is between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.

I hope the family of Mr McCartney will get the justice they have demanded for their dead brother. I have my doubts, as it seems to me the only way a conviction will be attained is if the killers of Robert McCartney and those who colluded with them give themselves up to the PSNI and admit the offence. As for some this would mean a considerable period of jail time, it is doubtful if even the most disciplined volunteer would voluntarily commit themselves to that. In any case, it should not be overlooked that with the recent expulsions from the PIRA, the dismissed men no longer come under O'glaigh na hEireann military discipline.

Perhaps it is time for the Nationalist/Republican people of the island of Ireland to demand of the Provisional Republican Movement that now is the time for O'glaigh na hEireann to leave the stage, and allow Sinn Fein to carry the PRM's banner alone, as a legal democratic political party, as is their right and their electoral mandate demands of them. I for one could not think of a finer memorial for Robert McCartney.


 

 

 

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Index: Current Articles



16 March 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Statement from the Family of Knife Murder Victim Mark 'Mousey' Robinson
Robinson Family, Derry

Power in the Pub
Anthony McIntyre

Why No Arrests? (Whose agenda are we working to)?
TR FitzSimons

McCartneys: how the personal became political
Brendan O'Neill

No Breakthrough
Michael Benson

Hope for Justice
Mick Hall

Provisional Thuggery in Strabane
Des Dalton

Basking in the Glory?
Dr John Coulter

This Is What Democracy Doesn't Look Like
Fred A. Wilcox

Way Beyond Orwell
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Aliyah and the Oligarchs
Mary La Rosa


7 March 2005

The Butcher of Derry
Anthony McIntyre

Republican Anger at Criminals on Political Wing
Martin Mulholland, IRPWA

RevisionDance
Brian Mór

The Rally for Justice
Sean Smyth

Green Leadership in North Call for a 'Big Conversation'
on a Unified Nationalist/Republican Strategy for the Endgame

John Barry, Green Party

Eoin McNamee's two Troubles novels
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Irish Christians and Africa
Dr John Coulter

 

 

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