Getting Stopped

I was in Belfast shortly before Christmas sorting out those last minute things with family before the great man began his earthward descent. I had deposited the kids with their aunt on the side of town I had grown up in and met up with friends, sampling the city’s Guinness in one of my old down town haunts. The following morning I got picked up by a close family friend who is also somebody I had been in the H Blocks with. He suggested we go out for breakfast before I headed off to pick up the kids and make the train journey home to Drogheda.

My friend has held onto his traditionalist republican beliefs long after the Provos went Stater and learned to love what they had for long professed to hate.  It hasn’t made him the friend of those who turned the Provos. He and I disagree on quite a bit but as he pointed out recently there are people who are not going to let something as disreputable as politics ruin friendships of many years standing.

When he picked me up I asked him was he still getting hassle from the cops. ‘Every day’ was his terse response while I hoped this day would be an exception. Like many things I have hoped for this too would elude me. On our way down the Andersonstown Road the blue light started flashing and the siren blared. I knew instinctively it was not an emergency seeking our vehicle to give way; that it was going to be one of those everyday events my friend experienced. We drifted down the road for a few hundred yards before pulling into the side. A cop came up from behind and opened my door. He asked my friend for his licence which was passed to him with a fair measure of contempt and returned in mutual fashion. That was the sum of the conversation between the British cop and the Irish republican which I was getting a ringside view of. The tension thickened the air. The cop then asked for my details. The Drogheda address seemed to surprise him as a frown descended over his features.

Being a British cop he would see Drogheda as being part of a foreign country. He walked off and came back a minute or two later with a few more questions, obviously verification ones, addresses where I had previously lived in the city. He also asked me to display a tattoo, before telling us we could go on our way.

It was all very formal and lacking in overt aggression but I sensed the situation was never more than a second away from being ugly. Nobody likes getting pulled to the side by the cops. That they did not search either of us or the vehicle confirmed they were on a fishing expedition. They knew who my friend was but wanted to find out who was in the car with him.

It was low level stuff for sure but if you are getting it day in day out it becomes intrusive and is bound to increase resentment. We have arrived at a situation where the cop views somebody challenging the Provo narrative as undermining the British state position and therefore in need of being dealt with. It is pretty clear that Gerry McGeough was the target of political policing. He was one of those unwanted members of the public that the law disposed of because he was proving too articulate in his critique of Sinn Fein and the roll of his electoral stone had to be halted before it began to gather voting moss. In more recent times we have witnessed the malevolent and vindictive PSNI handling of Alan Lundy’s dissent from the Stater position of the Provos.

Meanwhile, former republicans in Sinn Fein don’t get stopped or hassled They don’t have their homes raided - apart from the odd 12th of July incursion just to remind them who really is Mayor of Derry - or get set up like Stephen Murney or Alan Lundy. Once you go Stater the state will for the most part give you a bye ball, even look the other way when a bit of illegality is engaged in and on occasion allow you to stand in fine portly posture to be photographed alongside the chief constable as if you are auditioning for a prize pig competition. That you were convicted for killing two British soldiers, suggesting that the Casement killings were somehow okay in a way that the Masserene ones were not, seems just something in passing. I wonder what Pamela Brankin - the mother of Mark Quinsey - who Suzanne Breen wrote both poignantly and brilliantly about, made of all that prior to her untimely death.

While the Belfast experience was at the lower end of the scale, and for me little to complain about, for others it is part of an overall campaign of harassment visited on them daily, in their homes, on the streets, at work, shopping, driving, picking their kids up from school. I can return to Drogheda where I have to stop the Gardai if I want their attention rather than them stopping me.

Back in 1997 during a RUC search of my home the inspector in charge, being of the more polite variety, asked if he could sit on a chair. Once planted there he began a conversation about policing, asking me if I felt the police would ever be accepted. I told him that indifference was about as much as he could hope for which prompted the philosophical response that he could live with that. But where indifference or lack of enthusiasm may have kicked in for a few years after the name change, the traditional republican resentment towards the PSNI is being bulked out with serious resentment that seemed to have ebbed away when I lived in Belfast.

Nor can it be argued with any plausibility that the hostility towards the cops is the residue of a supposedly recalcitrant and diminishing band of implacable republicans unable to adjust to the post conflict world. Even Sinn Fein, so eager to suck the truncheon in 2007, now finds that it has been sold a pig in a poke; something Gerry Kelly seemed to confirm in his speech at the party's recent ard fheis.  

Some months back Matt Baggott indicated publicly that he wanted to attend a Sinn Féin ard fheis. He then followed that up by tasking the PSNI to facilitate illegal loyalist parades and by his action, left the Short Strand area open to continuous sectarian abuse and physical attack ... You might note his absence from our gathering here today. He has lost the confidence of the republican and nationalist people and if he is in any doubt about that, let him hear it from this ardfheis ... The old guard interfering with the ombudsman’s office; the refusal to give crucial evidence to inquests; the scandal of rehiring retired officers on huge financial severance packages; the different approaches to civilians and those with military backgrounds in HET investigations; the different approaches in policing between loyalist and republican demonstrations as witnessed in the so-called flag protests.

The state of affairs Sinn Fein complains about is one that Sinn Fein brought about in its lust for power without principle. Its decision to politically endorse an armed British police force with the same powers, even more, than it had when called the RUC has made possible what many gave their lives trying to make impossible.


  1. Power without principle is the operative phrase when it comes to the position of Sinn Fein. I feel they took the policing decision for all the wrong reasons, they were playing political catchup because of self-inflicted problems to do with the murder of Robert McCartney and its association with the republican movement. Rather than accepting PSNI because it was genuinely the right thing to do they done so out of self-interest, to get themselves back on track in terms of the peace process and the high office they've attained as a result of it. This sadly is how they work, it was the same with decommissioning and it was the same with McGuinness meeting the Queen, all for nefarious purposes and neither to do with principle. The truth is that Sinn Fein leadership simply has no principles left, they've been sold off one by one as the price of continued political power. Quite disgraceful really when you think of where they came from

  2. John O'Dowd just sat and called David Forde, Conal McDevitt and Danny Kennedy "his colleagues" on 'The View'. Tells you everything you need to know - colleagues in administering British rule and proud of it, shows the road that's been travelled. This is all about normalisation, a united Ireland gets lipservice and that's as far as it goes

  3. Sean, they are all humble servants of the crown..administrating British rule on behalf of HRM..

  4. Agreed mackers, but lets be honest the garda can be a nasty bunch too. ostensibly you make them seem like the "good" cops

    ACAB! ;)

  5. I don't usually bother with programmes like 'The View' Fenian but for some reason I decided to check it out last night. All I seen were efforts to make the Northern Ireland state appear normal and as though it can actually work - enough to turn the stomach and no republican way to be going about things.

    Sinn Fein are well and truly within the British model and John O'Dowd looked more than comfortable in his role as a minister of the British Crown. To see the Sinn Fein and DUP representation sitting together told me everything I need to know about what's going on at Stormont, tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, together they are administering the Northern state for Britain and that is all this sham process amounts to. And the worst of it is they are loving it, the suits and ties and prestige of British power. Disgusting. Long gone are the days of Barry McElduff throwing paper aeroplanes out Mary Nelis' window and making a mockery of the place.

    The only issues recognised as unresolved were flags, parades and legacy - no mention of Maghaberry, Internment, MI5 or political policing. Despite Gerry Kelly's efforts to paint a hardline image of Sinn Fein's position at the Ard Fheis we can see already it's nothing but crap and that none of this is on Sinn Fein's agenda at all, it's all for the optics.

    Tired of arguing the same points but what has to be said has to be said. No-one wants to be just a Sinn Fein basher but what else is there for it if they continue to try and ride two horses at the same time, they deserve to be exposed. You can't administer British rule and work for a republican agenda and that's becoming clearer all the time.

    So it's not Sinn Fein I've the problem with per se but their role in administering British rule and the resulting impact this has on their ability to oppose what the British state is up to in this country - they can't go against the boss-man for fear of losing their jobs and this is never how it was meant to be. They've grown comfortable and the fact that they are comfortable within an internal British framework no longer matters to them.

    Truly pathetic and O'Dowd's performance last night - in tandem with Jonathan Bell into-the-bargain - just demonstrates what I'm trying to out across here

  6. Anthony the peace at any price brigade see none of this,the much quoted Martin Niemoller,s First They Came Poem rings very true here,when these reconstructed ruc men/women are flexing their powers in the middle of Andytown its amazing how those unaffected attention always seem to be fixated in the opposite direction,

  7. Exactly Marty and if you think back it wasn't that long ago they decried the position of the SDLP for "turning a blind eye". Hypocrites

  8. "The shame that befalls those Palestinians who abandoned and denied their cause when they found a more profitable one is a double shame and is more shameful than the single shame of the Zionists of the shameful sinful cause."

    A Lebanese friend of mine wrote that... Sounds familiar

  9. Yesterday's decision by the British court to suspend sections 21 and 24 represents a set back for the police who have used this particular piece of legislation to intimidate and harass republicans going about their lawful business.

    Once again demonstrating their complete disregard for the legal system, the RUC-PSNI stopped one of the men responsible for bringing the challenge under a different section 43 of the same act. During the exchange a policeman made it clear they would continue to stop the man whatever the decision of the court yesterday.


  10. Wada ya expect Alec a cara a wee thingy like a section number or the upholding of civil law and human rights will get in the way of the thugs in uniform doing their bigoted best,after all the people on the receiving end are not uvf...

  11. Sean,

    Mike Nesbitt has now pulled out of a SPF organised conference on a shared future becuase of the attitude displayed last night by O'Dowd. When will we ever learn about pandering...

  12. Fenian-

    I know you mean Sinn Fein and i know i am going to regret asking this but what does SPF stand for-i have heard of the SPL but not your one-

  13. MH = life is to short for regrets! lol