I arrived home yesterday evening following my youngest son's First Communion celebrations anxious to put a few photographs on facebook when I read a status stating that another young child would be arriving home in the middle of a police raid on his/her home in the Creggan area of the city.
As I looked at the joy in my child my heart sank at the prospect of a traumatic end to a special day for the other child. Whilst it can be argued that a police force has a job to do and searching homes could be considered a facet of that role, how they conduct themselves in the exercise of their duties is something that should be open to scrutiny, and this is something that has been brought into question about the conduct of Police forces in many countries.
Here in the North of Ireland when scrutinising the actions of the PSNI the questioning of their conduct should be free from political justification, especially when these actions impact on young innocent children.
Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that a “child has the right to be protected from being hurt or mistreated in body and mind” yet it would appear the police in their activities are dismissive of this right.
These house raids are being carried out by a section of the PSNI known as Tactical Support Groups, these TSG's are accountable only to the chief constable and by-pass the oversight of local policing partnerships and the Policing Board. Whilst these raids are being carried out under so called anti-terrorism legislation technically the Police are raiding the homes of innocent people as in the eyes of the law a person is innocent until proven guilty. That's unless I missed something along the way?
Just this morning I read the following statement from MLA Pat Ramsey........
“I have been contacted regarding house searches by police both yesterday and tonight, I will be collating a report to the Police Ombudsman about both due to the impact on children, and would be keen to speak to both families involved if anyone can put me in contact with them via PM.”
Whilst I believe Pat Ramsey's intentions are genuine, in reality it is highly unlikely that the Police will co-operate with either Pat or the Northern Ireland Ombudsman on this matter. The Northern Ireland Ombudsman is currently in the process of taking the Chief Constable to court over the PSNI's refusal to fully co-operate with his office in over 60 murder investigations. This comes just over one year after the discovery that murders involving British State forces were being treated less rigorously than other cases examined by the Historical Enquiries Team.
In the case of the 1988 Good Samaritan bombing in Creggan, Derry, the Police Ombudsman said he found no evidence that innocent civilians were put at risk to protect a police informer. This claim is in direct conflict with the assertions made by the Retired RUC Officers Association whose members refused to co-operate with the ombudsman's investigation yet later alleged that a police informer had been protected. A daughter of one of the victims of the Good Samaritan Bombing said: “It beggars belief that retired police officers wouldn’t cooperate in a PONI investigation but, then, come along afterwards and seek to undermine the report and make claims about informer protection which the Ombudsman had been unable to confirm.”
There is clearly no way of checking the veracity of the information given by the police in particular when it involves the police investigating the police.
Questions to be asked:
Is there accountability in policing, if so who polices the Police?
Is there a Dark-side on the Bright-side of policing with the bright side being the policing you see? Or is there only a dark side of the force when it affects a certain political party or it's supporters?
Are the Tactical support groups a force within a force?
When people ask questions or raise concerns such as these there are some who dismiss genuine concerns and attempt to brand those asking as anti-peace process which for my own part could not be further from the truth, granted I do have grave concerns over what appears to be an endless process but I have always supported the need for true peace.
I have never condoned the use of violence and never will whether it be at the hands of paramilitaries or the state. I voted for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 believing things would change for the better, something in hindsight I would question given the ongoing use of draconian practices, practices such as lengthy remand tantamount to internment, secret courts, the continued use of the Diplock non-jury court and the increased use closed evidence covered by the use of the national security card. These practices still exist despite the promises of the Good Friday Agreement when we were promised an era in which “justice would be done and be seen to be done" and “measures compatible with a normal and peaceful society.”
It would appear that the system in the North of Ireland remains inherently unjust and as ever mounted in favour of the interests of the British State. The ongoing ambiguity surrounding many agreements and side deals made between the parties and the British Government which include everything from the On the Runs to the level of control given to the British Secret Services at Weston Park are slowly but surely beginning to bubble to the surface as the truth outs. Although some still deny all knowledge of these deals.
I think it's time for our politicians to cease with trying to fool us into thinking things are dandy when the cracks are becoming more visible by the day.
In a recent televised interview Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he would die to protect the peace process. Imagine that! Martin will give his life for the peace process, this is something which is laughable when you consider both he and Peter Robinson have resisted providing information requested of their office under Freedom of Information Legislation because it might lose them votes!
This would suggest Robinson & McGuinness have reservations over their own departmental practices. Maybe someone should take time to point out that openness, honesty and transparency are key ingredients in the establishment of true peace. No one wants anyone to die for anything, but don't feed us sound bites of self proclaiming martyrdom, we're not as stupid as you look.
If we are honest the only process at work here in the north is the process of normalisation with the great and the good persisting with the utterly impracticable task of trying to normalise an abnormal situation. We are working on the basis of an agreement that promised different things to different people an agreement with many of the promises yet to be fulfilled. The sheep and those who go with the flow would do well to remember that bleating the party diatribe does not make for a coherent argument and that not only do dead fish and detritus go with the flow, but dead fish also rot from the head down.
In all honesty the process was flawed from the outset and unfortunately at this point the best we can do is to hold to account the accountable and demand they do something to make the unaccountable more accountable.
What's really sad is that if the North of Ireland was Craggy Island and the politics here the Catholic Church then the sitcom Father Ted would be the most apt way of describing this ongoing farce!