The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Money's Worth


Terry O'Neill • 31.05.03

Many moons ago, as my Mohawk Indians friends say, there was a young high school student in Buffalo, NY known as Tommy Constantine. Tommy had quite the reputation. As one of his classmates put it, "Tommy was a pistol." Another told The Buffalo News that in those days, he would "ace the test in the hardest subject and then pull the fire alarm on his way out of the building." Some ascribed this behavior to youthful high spirits. I know him better. This "prank" broke the concentration of other students and gave him a competitive advantage.

Some things never change.

I have been highly amused in recent days over the sudden eruption of comment or, as you say in the British Isles, the row, on the extravagant remuneration of my old friend Tom Constantine for his services to Her Britannic Majesty's Government as Oversight Commissioner for the implementation of the Patten reforms. Tom is, to be sure, a notorious workaholic, so I'm certain Her Majesty got Her money's worth, if work was all She wanted. After reading the Northern Ireland Office response to Mr. Nigel Dodds' concern over the expense being run up that Mr. Constantine is being paid a fee that “compares favourably with what a consultant of his calibre might expect,” I feel compelled to put this in perspective, if I may be so bold.

In 1990, there was an eruption of communal violence in the Mohawk Indian community on its reservation in northern New York. Similar occurrences happened simultaneously in First Nations communities all across in Canada. Wouldn't you know, a military officer named de Chastelain rose to prominence in the resolution of the most serious of these, which took about six weeks and actually made money for the government in that during the time the Indians isolated themselves, they were unable to continue in certain mercantile activities involving tobacco and petroleum that they were used to conducting without bothering to collect and remit governmentally imposed taxes.

Meanwhile, in New York, Mr. Constantine, as superintendent of the New York State Police, inserted an occupying force of hundreds of state troopers into the Mohawk community - a village of some 5,000 souls. This occupation went on for nearly two years at a multi-million dollar expense to the rate-payers of our state. I was on the scene and I watched with amazement as a seedy, run-down hotel in seedy, run-down Massena, NY, just outside the reservation, was thoroughly and lavishly renovated during that period as a result of the windfall its owner received from billeting an army of troopers, all of whom were being paid overtime wages. Meanwhile, the rate-payers of New York, during a time of extremely straitened economic circumstances, footed the entire bill.

The bottom line, as we say here in New York, is that anytime Mr. Constantine is in charge, problems cost more and take far more time than is necessary to resolve. So, when he collects his huge paycheck from Her Majesty's Government and ominously intones that the Patten reform process will take a decade or more and cost many millions of pounds, my eyebrows shoot skyward with skepticism. In addition, two years of unnecessarily occupying Akwesasne (as the Mohawk territory is known) is hardly an appropriate resume for someone who is supposed to be turning the former RUC into a community-oriented, problem-solving police force.

Mr. Constantine has recently been picked up as the “security partner” for a major engineering firm here in Albany. The firm designs and builds commercial buildings and Mr. Constantine is supposed to advise it on the security of same. Doubtless he just tells the firm to fill up its facilities with hundreds of state troopers and hire two-thousand-pound-a-day ex-cops as security consultants. This new capacity of his further surprises me because while he was superintendent of the New York State Police, one of the most important buildings for which he was responsible - the Governor’s residence itself - was burglarized, not once, but twice, the second time after he had overseen the installation of a small fortune in high-tech security systems.

Additionally, in connection with his service to this firm, he was recently quoted as finding it having been unimagineable prior to September 11, 2001 that engineering firms such as the one now employing him would have to plan their building projects with the threat of terrorism in mind. What an astonishing statement given the fact that he had twice had offices blown up under his own tuches (a Yiddish word we use frequently in NY) when Arab terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 and domestic terrorists later did the same to the Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City, where the Drug Enforcement Administration he commanded had offices.

The United States and Great Britain are currently obsessed with terrorism. Civil liberties are being infringed and trillions being spent on the "expertise" of ex-cops like Mr. Constantine. I should think that a community like Ulster, where you are all sick and tired of this crap, would call the bluff of a character like "Tommy the Pistol."

Mr. Constantine is a very good policeman, but he is not the man to be written a blank check by any means. I like him a great deal. In fact, he's the closest thing to a knight in shining armor I've ever encountered. There is no reason, however, that that armor must needs be made of solid gold. I therefore commend Mr. Nigel Dodds for displaying Mr. Constantine in his new clothes. It's about time.


The author of this letter is an attorney and was Executive Assistant to the New York State Director of Criminal Justice during the administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo.



Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
many years of my life
in opposition, and
I rather like the role.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Index: Current Articles

9 June 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Money's Worth
Terry O'Neill


Connolly: National Liberation, Socialism and Partition
Liam O Ruairc


Pauperizing the Periphery
M. Shahid Alam


Democracy, eh?

Davy Carlin


Polluting People's Lives

Barbara Muldoon


The Gags of Prejudice
Anthony McIntyre


5 June 2003


Irish State Collusion with MI5
Eamonn McCann


Use of Loyalty
Mick Hall


Victimisation of Victims
Christina Sherlock



Newton Emerson


Heat, Not Necessarily Light

Anthony McIntyre


The Party's Fool

Karen Lyden Cox

Targetting Iran
Michael Youlton




The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to: