Brian WalkerPresenter Emily Maitlis’ posture of incredulity that all this was going on unsettled and surprised Justice Minister David Ford. Did he really expect understanding that it was all so difficult? –
Watching Minister for Silly Talks David Ford’s useless performance on Newsnight Wednesday evening was paradoxically useful. It went some way to explaining how ineptitude has come to play its part in the North’s decision making processes. At the same time it threw light upon the suspicion that decisions reached there are even more stupid than the self-created problem that the new decisions were meant to solve.
Mishandling has been a persistent feature of Ford’s tenure in the Justice ministry which sits at the heart of an executive he once described as incompetent, one of whose former micro ministers was only yesterday judged by an industrial tribunal to have been both implausible and lacking in credibility. In terms of his own ministerial claims to be both plausible and credible Ford is plodding merrily along the Ruane Route.
Anyone considering this a bald statement need only consider the impotent handling of cap badges on the hats of the Jurassic Neanderthals still roaming around Maghaberry Prison, the internment of Marian Price and Martin Corey, the woefully inept handling of Price’s incarceration, the prolonged detention of the ill Brendan Lillis, the strip searching debacle in the North’s jails, and the denial of compensation to the wrongly convicted Christy Walsh whose improper conviction was subsequently overturned. In ways Ford is merely carrying on in the inane British tradition of his predecessors who have held ministries of one sort or another in the North: much like Don Concannon or Stan Orme, spouting the same old rubbish, liberally spreading the threadbare platitudes. Don’t be surprised if we find him on the Late Late rendering a plumy rendition of Oh My Darling Clementine. Fumbling Ford or Babbling Brooke, the audience can cast its vote in the North’s Got Talent.
On Newsnight Ford was grilled by Emily Maitlis about RAAD. RAAD is the acronym of Republican Action Against Drugs which has its antecedents in the Provisional IRA cover name Direct Action Against Drugs. DAAD as it was known was responsible for killing many drug dealers particularly in a concentrated spate of attacks in the latter half of 1995. RAAD has simply picked up the Provisional IRA baton and is proceeding to beat those it accuses of drug dealing over the head with it. An exasperated Maitlis was clearly short on patience with Ford’s shortage on plausibility, too readily laid bare in his responses to her probing.
We know that the Justice Minister is the paper that is tacked over the policing and justice cracks in Northern Irish society. The Alliance policy of middlesome serves the other parties well in that it transfers to Ford responsibility for institutionally concealing their mutual malices. While much of his role is presentational, few would imagine Naomi Long being so effectively ineffectual. What can be done is either not done or not done well.
Much removed from the North these days it is hard to judge, but it strikes me that in that British controlled zone there is a sense of drift that was previously unimaginable except in the minds of those who wound up the clock in the hope that the hour would strike. They must be ticking the 'highly satisfied' box in surveys seeking responses to police failings. For all the talk of confidence in the PSNI a four per cent detection rate would suggest that despite Sinn Fein urging people to become informers for the British police, few in the communities are listening. If RAAD was widely regarded as a mere criminal gang on a par with those it targets there would be a much greater clean up rate aided by community assistance. This suggests an underlying problem with the policing and justice system which Ford shows neither the inclination nor ability to address.
A clearly embarrassing situation which, with a person so short on ideas as the Justice Minister, is likely to produce what was done before. And as Henry Ford is alleged to have said ‘If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.’
So what the people of Derry can expect to get because it is what they have always got is a crackdown by the British, house searches, arrests, framing of suspects, the disposal of unwanted members of the public, the use of totally tainted supergrass testimony, planting of evidence, more public money forked out in exchange for information, surveillance, bugging of property, tracking devices placed on vehicles. And of course no action against those who break the law in the course of upholding it. Given the complaints of heavy handed policing in Derry and a bomb attack on the PSNI by RAAD, the signs are ominous: the tango of repression and resentment is moving into quickstep mode. And the Minister just hopes to waffle his way through.