The “Dear knows”….my late mother would have said.The “Dear” in this case being that celestial being who knew just about everything worth knowing out there.
Listen, feel free to stop me at any time in the convesation here, because I have to admit to the occasional bout of confusion. If I was being easy on myself, I’d put it down to age , some vascular problem with my arteries, slowing the blood-flow , or just that my old ,raddled brain is dissolving into a gorgonzola of caverns, caves and wee bubbling holes inside my skull after a life-time of too much abuse . I would, but I know “rightly” that my memory has always veered a little on the side of the goldfish, in some respects .
It doesn’t usually cause me any harm , other than to catch me out when I put the car keys in the fridge and leave me swearing blind to myself that I’d left them in the bread-bin ….So as I say , you intellectual trolls and pedants out there who always get your spellings right, always parse every word to perfection,know all your synonynms, never put a grammatical foot wrong ,or are the very embodiment of exemplary literary unimpairment , can feel free to pull me up at any time .I’ll take it as a compliment that you’ve made the effort to read this far…(See what I did there?)… and hopefully, I’ll learn something absolutely new from you all when I subsequently pick your brains and unburden you of your astounding profundity. It’s a win- win situation for us all….Right? I’m not worried about any of that ….but…
Here’s the real nub of it .
In my world the Chief Constable of Norneverland has been a man called George Hamilton ,these past two years. Initially a young , callow cub, no doubt , born ,”the Dear knows” when ,but who went on and joined the local police force during some of the worst days of the recent conflict here. By “recent” , I actually mean that it ended some twenty years ago, but that stretch of years is but a drop in the ocean of curious Norneverland time .I can’t find the man’s actual age anywhere nor much else about him but I’d imagine that if he began work at about twenty years of age in 1985, he’d possibly be about fifty or early fifties by now.
The police force (and the word “force ” had to be used advisedly ) was then known in those olden days ,as the “RUC “(Royal Ulster Constabulary). At the time of George’s induction ,back in 1985, Norneverland had been embroiled in a bleak, dirty civic conflict for some seventeen or eighteen years, which had resulted in huge chasms of division across the entire community. It meant that many policemen resided in specific police-enclaves that were deemed safe for them. They may as well have lived their lives in special barrack-blocks.So to join in with such a “force” in this time- frame , simply meant that either you had no idea how divisive was the group you were joining, or you simply didn’t care too much about those untidy details and fancied getting tricked out in one of those lovely macho uniforms with your black holstered gun and possibly get busy with the task of growing one of those gay “Village People” moustaches that were all the rage and de rigeur for unknowing policemen back then. Our future Chief- Constable- to- be, from this point , proceeded to crawl gamely up that long sticky ladder to the top of his chosen force .
Not too many from the Nationalist community would have made, or would even have wanted to make that same journey. It really wasn’t for them at all. It would be like a Jewish teenager with some daft idea of joining the Waffen SS . It wouldn’t have been seen as a great career move. A few joined the police and I suppose that small percentage could be regarded as “royalists” or “unionists” at a stretch . Unfortunately in Norneverland, unlike in other lands across the world it was an impossibility for a “unionist” to also be a “republican” at the same time.It wasn’t politically conceivable to believe in the viability of a political reublicor possibly even to be a left-winger and be a policeman .You basically had to be right -wing or a conservative by nature. Anything else wasn’t even conceivable.
Norneverland wasn’t like Scotland , Wales, England, France or America in that respect .If you were a”republican” in Norneverland ,or even a “nationalist”, to a certain degree, you could only be perceived as an enemy of the state, not simply some political aspirant to a republican state of affairs for all, like the current leader of the Labour Party in the UK.It wasn’t considered a legitimate political aspiration to aspire to a republican agenda at all in Norneverland , really. You might say that back in the days before the Good Friday Agreement, it was actually illegal to espouse any republican ideas. To the police every republican was, if not a “terrorist “, then a “potential terrorist”. They didn’t regard it as legitimate and many think they still believe that to this day. In fact , many would say that unionism as a whole regard the very idea of being a republican or a nationalist, as not being quite “clean”.
The real change that has occured is the legitimisation of republicans in local government. A few years ago their voices were not allowed on the media at all. At one point actors were employed to speak their words on the media as if to remove the public from any contamination. You might think I made that up and laugh loudly, but I assure you it is true.One of these days they could actually have a majority and anyone who had been involved in the past conflict will be superceded by younger members with no memory of a conflict at all .Now that is a real turnaround.
The clues are there in the name of the police organisation.The words “royal” and “ulster” were originally a right giveaway. This was a job for royalists and for anyone who believed that ulster had only six counties. This was a job which shut -out republicans and nationalists. Of course, it would be difficult for an aspiring republican of any stripe to align his political philosopy of a “free citizenship” with the idea of submission to a royal household , in another land ; one of some very odd pedigree …and it would be equally difficult for a nationalist who saw”Ulster” as a nine-county province of Ireland , one of four such provinces and not as some six-county paring-down of same , to give allegiance to an organisation that simply boasted these untruths in its very name and badge .Of course i knew a few from the nationalist background who joined the old RUC but they were the odd few fishes in the pond and most had joined long before the “troubles” really got going.
No …this was “Cavaliers and Roundheads” all over again, except it was happening in the tiny land of Norneverland between the people there…and the police force appeared to be set up entirely to serve only one side of the community…drawn almost entirely from the unionist way of thinking.That alone was going to cause some problems somewhere along the line.Given the crazy origin story of the place it was bound to arrive at this scenario at some future time when the possibility arose that aspiring republicans threatened to equal and possibly even eventually outnumber those who voted as unionists. There was always going to be a possibility of future instability in such a state .
This is the scenario into which our current Chief Constable entered. I say our current chief Constable and I’d assumed he’d been in the job these past two years but in fact he’s really only assumed that position, officially, recently .His predecessor Matt Baggott seems to have hung around forever, leaving this new one enough time to make a few waves of his own before he really let go of the reins and retired .
Can you imagine?….. I actually thought Mr Baggott was gone long ago ….and then he pops up a few days ago….
That’s what I mean about my raddled brain. Remember the unholy useless chaos conjured up last year about a “still active mythical IRA?” We’re all still waiting to see what that fuss was all about .I’m damned if I know yet , other than the fact that he arrested a few people for questioning with a great hullabaloomagee and then let them out again without any known result.Nothing actually changed at all, except that he’d done some damage to community -relations.
That seems a foolish thing to do given the changes that were supposed to have been made in the police service.
I would have called it a waste of time ,but in fact it wasn’t, as it gave me much to write and laugh about and it exposed a particularly nasty seam in what was supposd to be a “new and utterly reformed police force”. If there was no result and the IRA really wasn’t something that was anything other than an Old Boys Club, then why the witch -hunt at all? It seemed such a waste of resources, given that the main republican movement had no further use for a working “IRA” of any sort. They’d proven that time and again in the past twenty years. You didn’t even have to be a republican to see that.All you had to do was open your eyes and watch how Sinn Fein had performed without an armed group in their shadows.They very obviously didn’t need an IRA any more.So why was our police chief wasting his time and our money on something that very obviously lived in the past ?
Did I forget to tell you that somewhere along the way they decided to change the name of the police force to something else that mightn’t annoy those people who weren’t “royalists”,” unionists” or “loyalists”. Nobody can remember why they did that in the first place . Certainly the new Chief Constable has no real idea . He thought they were a great professional police force already and that they had a spotless reputation in his eyes. Come to that , he appeared to have no real idea why the people of Norneverland thought it was a great idea to change the name.It’s much like the idea that no-one from the unionist community knows why the unholy unrest ever kicked off in the first place.It’s a complete mystery and none of them have the slightest notion and somehow most nationalists know why it happened in chapter and verse .Or maybe there’s a sort of amnesia at work. Anyway,” the Dear “knows why they decided to take out the “Royal” and the “Ulster” in the title and then they started calling it a “service” instead of a “force”. He didn’t seem to see why that was necessary at all.So what….the ….”They were going to be a service for everyone , rather than just a force for simply fighting republicans?”
That did appear to be a novel idea , alright….
I don’t think our new Chief Constable, deep in his heart , really fully agreed with all of that. I can’t really believe all of his colleagues and workmates did either .It must have been quite a shock and a sea-change to assimilate that overnight. Maybe they all had to do special classes with a hypnotist for re-programming to really believe it. He gives the impression that he doesn’t really know why that had to be done at all.It doesn’t seem to have helped much in the percentage of recruits from nationalism ,yet either . I would imagine that some have joined from the “nationalist” community but they might actually be politically “unionist” in political aspiration. It’s hard to say how many nationalists have since joined the police service and I doubt if any republicans have joined this new service at all .I wonder has anyone ever asked.
Now our Chief Constable is implying that he can’t really afford the resources to allow his police officers to solve all the crimes from the past, even though there seems to be money enough to waste, as pointed out earlier. He blames our politicians for this but it is the British Government ,who alone ,will not agree to a release of information about the past. The Sinn Fein party appear to be open to a “Truth and Reconciliation” forum of sorts, but they seem to be the only ones with that clear idea.The UK government has cited “National Security” as their stumbling block in releasing information, but most observers already know that it actually refers to the exposure of “collusion” by their own security forces in terrorist activities with all the protaganists in the conflict.Apparently it went right to the PM’s office and a blind-eye was turned. In a nutshell they are afraid of being exposed as having aided the police, the IRA and a variety of loyalist terror groups in the killing of some of the very people under their supposed care.I don’t think that might be strictly legal, but then again , if you make up all the rules in the first place , I suppose you can call anything “legal”, eh? Just look at the fun someone like Henry V111 had with the “law”.
It will always be difficult to square that circle but you really would wonder why a man would even want to aspire to a job like Chief of Police in those kinds of circumstances…the law, logic and morality being as malleable as Play Doh.
Now , just when you thought his predecessor, Mr Baggott, had long-since left the stage , he’s just popped up to add his tuppence worth , while at the same time it has ,just now, been proposed that an outside group of detectives will investigate the British double-agent “Stakeknife” and his dealings with the IRA. This British spy within the IRA was apparently involved in some fifty murders.
Mr Baggott has only just now handed over the remainder of the poisonous backlog to George Hamilton and I’d thought he’d done it long ago.
In his last interview he said that the PSNI could no longer deal with the issues of the past, which were causing a massive strain on police resources and were also impacting on the public and political confidence. He also felt that an outside judicial authority should deal with the past and there should be some separation between the present and the past.
I thought this was an interesting abstract concept , given that everything that was not in “the present” ..”the now”….was in fact, “the past”, so where exactly did he think a demarcation line should be drawn between the two “places”….the” present” and the “past”? You might wonder why most of these outstanding cases weren’t sorted out as part of the everyday grist of a policeman’s life.Why the pile-up of cases, if the work was being done as they went along?
Or Would that line be at the point where the RUC morphed into the shiny all new PSNI …that same PSNI with all those new bells and whistles that had since re-employed many of the same policemen who had formed the former , old”force”. It really did seem a difficult one to figure out.
Mr Baggott said that the past was “toxic” to the PSNI.Why would that be if it was supposed to be an all new service with nothing at all to fear from the old RuC and its own strange history. He also said that Del Boy Trotter’s Peckham, in London, had more inner city crime to deal with ,and that there were more street gangs and hundreds of robberies every month than there ever was anywhere in Norneverland.
So much for Belfast being just like anywhere else in the UK, mind……