that long ago Anthony McIntyre would have wanted
to put a bullet in the back of a Chief Constable's
head. To an IRA member, the only good cop was a
dead cop, and Northern Ireland's most senior policeman
would have been a dream target.
first experience of police was at 14 when he was
arrested in the middle of the night at his home
in Belfast's Lower Ormeau: "I was thrown into
a jeep on top of another 14-year-old. I was slapped
and punched during interrogation. I didn't expect
that. I've hated the cops most of my life. If I
could have developed a nuclear bomb and dropped
it on them, I would have."
this week McIntyre, who has spent 18 years in jail
for murder and IRA membership, visited Police Service
of Northern Ireland headquarters to interview the
Chief Constable, Hugh Orde.
a member of the National Union of Journalists, McIntyre
and his wife, Carrie Twomey, edit an online republican
magazine, the Blanket. McIntyre wanted to question
Orde from a "radical, republican perspective".
The Chief Constable, who has adopted an "open
door" policy, agreed to the interview, even
though it will inevitably outrage unionists.
I have learned here is that, whoever you speak to,
it upsets someone. We will wait and see who this
upsets," Orde told McIntyre. He said it was
"important to understand everyone's history
if you are going to police them". But convincing
republicans, after decades of conflict, to support
the police won't be easy.
saw how the police let loyalists attack our homes,"
says McIntyre. "I saw how they beat civil rights'
protestors off the streets, how they shot dead nine-year-old
Patrick Rooney as he lay in his bed in Divis Flats.
a young person, you always knew they could murder
you and get away with it. They were the enemy. I
thought hell wasn't hot enough for them." In
1977, when he was 19, McIntyre was sentenced to
life for the murder of UVF man Kenneth Lenaghan.
He spent over three years on the Blanket protest
in the H-Blocks.
was guilty but dozens of people I met weren't. They
were there because the cops had beaten 'confessions'
out of them. We sat in jail seething as we watched
police attack republican funerals and kill children
with plastic bullets. I thought they were bastards
I got out of jail in 1992, I was constantly harassed.
I was stopped taking the kids to school, I was hauled
out of black taxis." McIntyre believes the
peace process is a capitulation of republican ideals
but is opposed to any armed campaign by any republican
group: "The war is over and the Brits won.
When I met Hugh Orde, I was meeting the head of
a victorious police force; he was meeting a former
member of a defeated army."
the interview, McIntyre asked Orde if the new Police
Service of Northern Ireland represented the disbandment
of the RUC. Orde replied: "On 4/11/2001, the
name changed. It has got a different name."
But he stressed that 1,000 new officers had been
recruited: "I can't see any other organisation
in Northern Ireland that has moved as quickly as
we have in terms of reorganising and restructuring."
admitted that in an organisation as big as the PSNI,
"we have good cops and bad cops". McIntyre
asked how republicans could trust the force when
so many Special Branch officers remained.
said more officers from Special Branch had left
in recent years than from any other part of the
force: "Those would no doubt be officers of
all abilities from the outstanding to those any
organisation would be happy to see the back off.
Because that's the spectrum of people we have in
vast majority of cops I've had dealings with since
I've been here do not cause me concern. If they
did I would do something about it." He did
not accept that collusion between police and loyalists
had been endemic. He voiced commitment to investigating
any alleged collusion: "If the evidence takes
us to difficult places, we go into difficult places."
acknowledged the Provisional IRA had "moved
on" - "they haven't attacked my people,
they haven't attacked soldiers". He said it
was only a matter of time before Sinn Fein joined
the Policing Board: "In terms of democratic
control of policing, it should happen. They have
a substantial 24 per cent of the vote."
denied allegations of police forensic malpractice
in several Real IRA cases. He also rejected claims
of government interference in his decisions. He
admitted there was the "odd racist" in
PSNI ranks but pledged such individuals would be
disciplined. A third of new PSNI recruits are women
and Orde said his target was to have 26 per cent
female officers, compared to the UK average of 17
was McIntyre convinced that policing in the North
is changing? "Hugh Orde is personable, witty
and intelligent. He is a man of ability with good
organisational skills. He gave me no reason to doubt
his personal honesty," says McIntyre.
is not part of the old RUC macho culture of hatred
and bigotry. But he doesn't have to be. His predecessors
were driven by the need to defeat the IRA. By his
time, the IRA had already been defeated.
is just as political as other Chief Constables but
in a different way because British government needs
are different. The 1980s produced its man of the
moment, the peace process has done likewise. Jack
Hermon was a hard-nosed, no-nonsense peeler to deal
with the hunger-strike period. The Thatcher government's
war on republicanism required brute force.
Orde is the cop to adopt a softly-softly approach
to bring Sinn Fein onto the Policing Board. That's
what the Blair government needs. Today policing
must be more like chess than a boxing match. But
the job of both Hermon and Orde is the same - to
stabilise Northern Ireland and perpetuate its existence
as part of the British state."
no longer hates the police "but they remain
my opponents and they need to be challenged and
held to account". He claims that minimum requirements
for nationalists would have been the disbandment
of the RUC and a new police force organised regionally
with no centralised authority.
Ireland clearly isn't a "police state",
he says: "The PSNI are more accountable than
the RUC and that's welcome. But a whole panoply
of repressive legislation remains on the statute
book and can be used at any time.
police are still capable of brutality. Last year,
I watched them baton kids in an anti-war protest
outside Belfast City Hall. The hatred on their faces
was the same as you once saw at IRA funerals. You
knew they wanted to hit and hit hard."
predicts Sinn Fein will imminently sign up to the
Policing Board but says he will never support the
PSNI and wouldn't want his children to join it:
"A republican choosing to wear the uniform
of a British police force is as incongruous as a
prisoner putting on a prison officer's uniform during
the H-Block protest.
religion of police officers is irrelevant, it's
the state they serve that matters. If all the screws
in jail had been Catholic would Bobby Sands have
lived? Seamus's boot can be every bit as vicious
house I've lived in since 1972 has been raided.
I'm not a member or supporter of any armed group
but last year 33 police Land Rovers and over 100
officers took part in a raid on my home.
seized the computer, mobile phones and other stuff.
They were very civil and courteous and eventually
the equipment was returned. But from a republican
viewpoint that doesn't matter: they are still the
raiders and we are still the raided."
Breen is the Northern correspondent of Village,
a new weekly Irish current affairs newspaper. Edited
by Vincent Browne, Village is on sale in Easons,
Mace and other newsagents across the North.