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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Politically Correct - PC Orde
Justice is incidental to law and order. - J. Edgar Hoover
Anthony McIntyre • 31 January 2004

One of the nonsenses of the peace process - and there have been many - is that the PSNI boss, Hugh Orde, is an apolitical sort of cop. A myth cultivated by his PR team and facilitated by the British is that political policing went out with the old RUC name and that under Orde a new brush is employed on terms equivalent to any police force confronted with a crime problem; policing is ostensibly subject to the requirements of the law rather than the whims of politicians or the vagaries of politics.

Yet the timing of some of Orde's policing interventions, or the refusal to intervene in certain cases, suggests that far from being the cops' cop he enjoys being portrayed as, he is very much what the US public used to call a G-man - the government's cop. In that much he is merely following a long established British state practice for dealing with political problems in Ireland over the last three and a half decades.

Just as the violent struggle that raged here throughout the 1980s produced its man for the moment, the peace process has done likewise. Jack Hermon, a hard-nosed no-nonsense peeler, was quite comfortable overseeing and defending some of the most intense and controversial forms of policing that Western Europe has witnessed in decades. The Thatcher government's war on republicanism required brute force. Hermon provided it, even if on occasion he was capable of insight that would lead him to urge a more restrained response - as during the 1981 hunger strikes. The Blair government, no less intent than winding up republican armed activity than the Tories, has acquired a cop every bit as useful to it as Hermon proved to the Tories. Only on Blair's watch the game plan to eradicate republicanism is pursued more like chess than boxing; taking the man is considered appropriate only if it serves some broader strategic objective.

In Ballymurphy this week a number of homes were raided allegedly as part of a wider PSNI investigation into the human rights abuses that have continued to be a feature of this community despite the peace process. Four men were arrested and were out on the streets again before most people even realised they had been scooped. Some idiot in the PSNI press office, thinking he too could contribute to the many 'historic' events that have graced our self-obsessed little zollverein, informed the public that the arrests were in connection with 'historic punishment assaults.' At the same time, by way of adding a backdrop of a province wide coordination to the Ballymurphy arrests, a Derry man was charged in relation to the armed assault on North West republican Mickey Donnelly six years ago. On the day, the PSNI activity maximised a welter of adverse publicity for Sinn Fein.

The nationalist party, predictably silent when the homes of republicans it doesn't like are raided, was as predictably vociferous when the homes of those they favour suffered a similar fate. Such selective silence leaves itself open to be interpreted as a 'failte romhat' to those intent on searching homes in West Belfast, in the full knowledge that any anticipated Sinn Fein furore would be seen as smacking of double standards; mere wind bagging, put out solely for the optics. Newly elected Stormonteer Fra McCann complained, 'I would challenge anyone to explain the differences between this morning’s operation and those carried out in this area by the RUC over many years.' Waken up and smell the coffee, Fra. The PSNI were raiding republican homes in this area in July and Sinn Fein had the following comment to make:

' ...................................................................'

Pastor Niemoller - who was he, what would he know about Ballymurphy?

Punishment beatings have been with us for more than a decade now. During the first Provisional ceasfire in 1995 a spokesperson for the organisation said that it had carried out eight attacks during its cessation. An understatement, but acknowledgement at least that the Provisionals were involved. Since its second cessation, the Provisional movement has declined to volunteer any information about its involvement in violently policing anti-social elements within the community. Nobody, apart from Billy Leonard perhaps, believes that the punishment is self-inflicted. But then cops always did believe that nationalists beat themselves up just to discredit the RUC. Yet the decision by the PSNI to move just prior to the Good Friday Agreement entering review, suggests to many people that policing is being used for very specific political purpose, in this case putting Sinn Fein in the uncomfortable glare of the spotlight and making it appear unreasonable in the face of DUP demands that its associated militia disbands before there will be any resumption of the power sharing executive. It heavily resonates of October 2002 when the Stormont offices of the party were raided prior to the collapse of the executive, allowing the Unionist Party leader David Trimble to take the moral high ground and effectively escape censure for the collapse. As one commentator of the day put it, 'conventional wisdom has it that Mr Trimble won and Mr Adams lost.' Whatever evidence existed against Sinn Fein - and it seems much weaker now than claimed at the time - the timing suggests that political rather than independent policing imperatives were the determinant. As David McKittrick wrote in October 2002:

Few doubt that republicans have been involved in political espionage. But questions remain about an investigation that ran for 13 months, culminated in a search of a political party's offices at a most sensitive time and brought down a government.

Elsewhere, Orde's reputation as the apolitical cop doesn't bear up to scrutiny. The drugadiers of C Company in the Shankill could only manage three months in Bolton before they had their collar felt by British cops. Yet they could openly parade their wares in Johnnyville for years without the slightest hint of police concern. Orde cannot be credited with the Bolton operation but he must carry culpability for permitting the drugs trade to flourish in Belfast as a result of operating within political constraints devised by the NIO, which favoured cultivating political strands within the UDA. Moreover, journalists who adhered to the public's right to know principle and made life uncomfortable for politicians had their doors kicked in during the early hours and found themselves the involuntary guests in one of Mr Orde's custody suites. And yet not one arrest, nor one house search in pursuit of the UDA killers of Gerard Lawlor.

Policing in the North of Ireland is as politically driven as ever. Hugh Orde no more sets the context for policing than Pat Bradley did for elections. Both were functionaries operating in a very partisan environment structured by the British. In the absence of any republican threat to the British state, it is much easier to disguise policing as professional and dispassionate. We may not inhabit a police state but political policing is still a feature of our society. Our society's defining political characteristic, the peace process, is being policed by its dominant cop, Hugh Orde.



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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.
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Index: Current Articles

31 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Partitionists and Non Truth Tellers
George Young


Politically Correct: PC Orde
Anthony McIntyre


Statement of Liam O Comain to the Bloody Sunday Tribunal

Liam O Comain


An Aging Population
Liam O Ruairc


INLA Statement on unveiling of Neil McMonagle Monument


Inspiration at Budrus
Mary La Rosa


27 January 2004


A Land Fit for Heroes or a Party Suited to Peelers?
Tommy McKearney


Rest in Peace
Brendan Shannon


Shooting the Fenians

Anthony McIntyre


On the Theme of Forgiveness: An Open Letter to Victor Barker
Karen Elliott


A Response to Victor Barker

Liam O Ruairc


TV Times
Eamon Sweeney


Eamonn McCann and Marion Baur


“All bureaucrats are equal but some are more equal than others”
Peter Hadden


Airport Workers Reply
Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta, and Chris Boyer




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