Poachers Turn Game Keepers - Policing is Political

Tonight The Pensive Quill features an article by guest writer Sean Matthews on Sinn Fein and policing which looks at the issue from an anarchist perspective.

The transition from opposition to defenders and enforcers of the status-quo by the Provisional Republican Movement has not been without its hiccups along the way which is what you would expect with a path littered with hypocrisy and broken promises. Writing in the Belfast Telegraph Sinn Fein’s National Chairperson Declan Kearney referred to the ’dark side’ of policing and warned his party’s support for the police is ‘not unconditional,’ which is merely a mantra to cover up growing discontent and disillusionment within republican heartlands as they are now the game-keepers lock, stock and barrel.

The fact that Sinn Fein prefer to grovel to the mainstream media every time the PSNI hit an own goal and step out of line only highlights the ineffectiveness of holding the police to account in the various policing boards. Instead of ’putting manners’ on the police, the Shinners are now part of the problem and a victim of their own success. The result of embarking along the cul-de-sac of reformism as the infamous anarchist Alexander Berkman warned nearly a century ago:

With growing success in elections and securing political power they turn more and more conservative and content with existing conditions. Removal from the life and suffering of the working class, living in the atmosphere of the bourgeoisie . . . they have become what they call 'practical'. . . Power and position have gradually stifled their conscience and they have not the strength and honesty to swim against the current. . They have become the strongest bulwark of capitalism.

Ironically, there was always a case for the Provisional Movement joining the state policing structures, considering their armed wing policed working-class communities with brute force akin to establishing its thuggish authority and showing who's boss than sorting out ‘anti-social behaviour’. In the end the truth is they might as well get paid for the job they already do. Emerging from the shadows are republican groups intent on filling this vacuum and following in the path of their predecessors.

The Provisional Republican Movement’s gradual embrace of the state’s mechanism on ‘law and order’ can be traced to the origins of the political peace process and its involvement in Community Restorative Justice Schemes in the 1990s. This was based on some level of co-operation in terms of dialogue and funding from state statutory agencies. As a result of the threat they posed to the legitimacy of the status-quo in the long-term, these schemes have either been fully incorporated into the criminal justice system or under the direct control of armed groups: therefore undermining the very essence of their independence serving to recuperate dissent.

A stronger, more militant and confident working class will be able to, and must, take on responsibility for tackling anti-social crime in its own communities as part of wider independent movement, because the police won’t do it and are complicit due to the very nature of capitalism and the state. No amount of token reforms, ‘sexy’ makeover, and government from Dublin, Stormont or London can disguise this fundamental role of the security forces or if you live on the Falls or the Shankill. Playing the green and orange card does not come into it as James Connolly referred to the fact- that there would be little difference if the unemployed were rounded up ’to the tune of ’St Patrick’s Day’ and the bailiffs wore ’green uniforms and the Harp without the crown, and the warrant turning you out on the road will be stamped with the arms of the Irish Republic.’

Unlike republicans, we don’t oppose the states armed forces because they are 'British' although we recognise the colonial legacy of policing in Ireland and it being on the frontline of British Government policy counter-insurgency policies such as 'normalisation' and 'Ulsterisation'. The primary role of the police as the armed wing of the state is to defend and protect the wealth and power of the ruling class whether it be in Soviet Russia or here. In the words of the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin ‘When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called "the People's Stick" sums up the basic anarchist position.

We should not succumb to populist quick-fix calls for ‘zero-tolerance’, or 'more police on the streets' providing the green light for an intensification in police brutality which ebbs and flows depending on the intensity of class conflict and balance of forces as we have witnessed in the occupy movement particularly in the US and during the Arab Spring.

A critical element in this struggle in the short-term involves exposing and highlighting police brutality through organising public meetings and independent groups based in our communities that will expose and oppose police harassment.

The Queens University Republican Congress held a public meeting in November on Political Policing in Ireland- Ten Years of the RUC/PSNI which was addressed by Ciaran Murphy (RNU), Stephen Murney (Eirigi) and Chris Donnelly (RC/IRSP). While meetings such as these represent an important step forward in highlighting police harassment we need to bring these type of meetings into our communities at the coalface and not just confine ourselves to one community or the needs of political activists if we are to have any hope building a mass movement that links all these struggles together. We must demonstrate through our actions and methods that only by collectively organising, practicing solidarity where we live and work as a class can we begin to tackle and remove the scourge of ‘anti-social crime’ and the real crime of capitalism.

The police are not concerned about protecting me or any of the working class, because they are put here by the ruling class to protect the interests of the rich from the poor. To enforce their laws that keep together their system, that keeps them at the top and the majority at the bottom.


  1. Sean,s post is excellent and as usual well worth reading,if there is a single lesson to be learned from the so called "conflict" of the past decades is that the governments and political parties especially qsf/dup are nothing but a shower of bastards,who willingly allowed the working classes to be the cannon fodder in their search for power, same old same old untill we remove this out of date and corrupt system of them and us and the big sectarian stick of prod v taig.

  2. The much vaunted transformation of the RUC has become a big joke: the PSNI is 2/3 RUC and 2/3 protestant. Patten has been circumvented by the reemployment of 300 former RUC officers as a 'civilian' workforce engaged in sensitive areas. Having benefited from a golden handshake redundancy package many have returned to well paid jobs for their old employer. It doesn't get any better than this for the old brigade.

  3. 2/3 of the people in NI are protestant, this is reflected in the compostion of the police force.80% of people in the 26 counties are catholic, a similar proportion of police are of that religion.How many civilians have been killed by the PSNI ? None ?.Fionnoula is very quiet, she said Mc Feely would repay all his debts ! AHEM ! Why don't you write about trying to create a better future for all ? NI has half the unemployment of the south.

  4. Alan, the percentage of catholics in the PSNI does not equate with the percentage of catholics in the population. Catholics now make up 45% of the population whereas their representation in the police force is just under 30%. I see you had nothing to say about it being 2/3 RUC?

  5. Nice one Alan dont let facts get in the way of a good yarn, you should get a manager instead of handling yourself....

  6. Alan, are you forgetting about that fella that “tried to drive through a PSNI/RUC roadblock” a couple of years ago? He was shot dead by a “PSNI” officer, who it turned out, couldn’t have been telling the truth, because of the position of the car and the trajectory of the bullet. It won’t come to mind, but it was in Co. Down somewhere (someone help me out with the name of the place) he was a civilian.

  7. Alan when you talk of norn iorn do you mean the real north of Ireland,ie Banba,s crown Malin head Co Dun na nGall which we all know is part of the province of Ulster,which includes 8 other counties and if so you,ll find that the majority of the population are non protestant,or do you mean the artificially created statelet of norn iorn wich was created from six of the 32 counties of Ireland to give a unionist/protestant rump a toehold for prefidious Albion to maintain a presence in it first colony by the use of draconian powers ie special powers act sectarianism and gerrymandering,and all this was enforced by the ruc with the help of the b,specials and the uvf,now I,m sure you,l agree that tinkering around the edges with name changes and including a few carpetbaggers/castle catholics wont make this statelet any less corrupt or artificial.Belfastgit the joyrider was 23 year old Steven Cowell from the Shankill the psni officer was never charged and was reinstated no change there.

  8. Belfast Git
    Ballynahinch Co Down was the place

  9. Alan,

    I agree with the math however the over simplistic formula fails to mention the numerous variables that dramatically change the equation essentially the common denominator being two entirely different police forces.

    Garda Síochána na hÉireann generally an unarmed force that carry a truncheon and more lately pepper spray, detectives and the regional support units along with Emergency Response Units carry weapons.
    Cross over the imaginary line and meet the heavily armed well-trained Para-military force of the former RUC now the same force of the PSNI regardless of its religious make up.

    It would make no difference if the PSNI/RUC were entirely catholic their job and role is to keep the “Queens peace” whereas the Guards job is to keep the peace of Ireland.
    How many people have the PSNI killed? (How many people have the guards killed?) Changing of the name does not mean the police in Northern Ireland, or members therein have not been involved in murder.
    If the Provos changed their name to People Interested in Reconciliation Agreements would wipe their slate clean by virtue of changing a name does not change the role.

    You should write about building a better future for all sounds a little funny as you gripe at Nuala as if she is Mc Feely’s solicitor so we can at least rule out a better future in your world for two people.

    Northern Ireland has less people than the south if you do the unemployment math there is not much difference.
    Take it up with the Irish government and ask them to write a better future for us all.

    You could always apply to join the PSNI although a former RUC man exposes their discriminatory practice of hiring.


    His problem was the changing of the name displaying his loyalty to the RUC and after pressured by four phone calls from recruiters he relented under the strain and joined the PSNI civilian branch.
    Then he leaves after four months and puts the boot into the PSNI I am sure his skill and knowledge taught in the dirty war came in very handy for him.

    The PSNI excuse:

    “The PSNI has defended the practice, arguing that it needs the range of highly-specialised skills and experience possessed by the former officers it has rehired.
    "They do absolutely fantastic work in some very challenging areas and their experience and expertise is of huge benefit to us," Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie told a meeting of the Policing Board last week.”
    This in no other words says the need for the RUC is greater than the need for reform and fair employment. No matter how you look at it, it is still the PSNI/RUC.

  10. Tain bo the 2001 census results records that 43.76% of the population of norn iorn registered themselves as catholic so Alan and your maths are well of the mark a cara.and that has,nt even accounted for members of FSM,,

  11. Marty,

    Point taken I was being in agreement with a simplistic math formula for the sake of agreeing only to make a point that without the exact numbers there is no proven mathematical answer. Which Alan leaves out in his rant.

    Using the 2001 census provides an eleven-year gap in which the demographics would have numerically changed again. I also would be highly suspicious of any census carried out on behalf of the Brit government.

  12. The figure is close to 45% today.

  13. SF...have conveniently forgotten all those who were deliberately tormented by being set up by loyalist orange peelers with unashamedly zero evidence and a judiciary that lapped it all up. i'm astounded Collie Duffy walked, but delighted, especially for his tireless daughter Mandy. Perhaps the judiciary are getting a concience lately? Doubt it. Anyone with a braincell knew when he was gate-arrested he was being framed.

    As for unionists..if there becomes a RC/nationalist majority in the 6 counties do SF believe any referendum will be meekly honoured by them? Anyone for Home Rule, UVF, Civil rights, Sunningdale? Not their style, but sure SF/PSNI will see it through.

  14. According to the north's dept. of education 51% of children registered in schools here listed themselves as catholic while only 37% as Protestant. The other 12% registered as christian 'other' or non-denominational. There are actually 43,000 more Catholics in schools in the north - right through from nursery to uni. These figures are from late 2011 & are in the public domain.

    Bit of wishful thinking on your part Alan?

  15. But how many norn iron RC's will revert to SDLP or OU come a referendum?

    SF have to be aware of this, they are too clued in politically not to be. If they ever come clean and 'officially' abandon republicanism, they will become 'officially' unionist.

    Lot of ok people in SF, and a lot of tubes, but the party is stuck between the two 'officials' IRA and Unionist. It wears a green coat but is well tamed.

    The north is mega secure regardless of the demographics. And after 3,600 lives and 30 yrs who cares?

    lets hope for a happy 2012. SF to come clean and move on. Collie Duffy to be left alone and other state stitch-ups let out.

  16. Why is it presumed that because you are working class that you are more akin to revolution than any other class? Deprivation does not breed revolution but only contempt.
    The other question is how do we bring all these ‘people-type’ parties and groups together?
    Answer – In a black taxi!