We Never Had a Chance

Guest writer Gerard Hodgins with his take on Sinn Fein's failure to combat political policing in the North.

Having endorsed the British Constabulary in Ireland in 2007, two years later Sinn Fein went on record to denounce physical-force republicans as “traitors to Ireland”. In between those two dates Martin Mc Guinness went on record to offer his condolences on the death of former RUC Chief Constable Jack Hermon who oversaw shoot-to-kill policies against republicans, torture of republicans in interrogation centres and instigated the disgusting and disturbing attacks upon funerals of dead republicans in the early 1980s. Thank-you Mr. Eastwood!!

With the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2010 we were assured that the nationalist nightmare was over and that accountability mechanisms would ensure community control over policing with no more political policing focussed vindictively on any community.

It didn’t happen though. Sinn Fein’s trajectory from cutting-edge national liberation and social justice to acquiescing in the one-sided policing of our past was successfully sold to enough of the republican base for them to maintain the fiction for long enough that “everything is alright, the Big Lad knows what he’s doing”, until such a time when a critical mass would build up in votes rendering the republican base not only unnecessary but a bit of an embarrassment to the aspirations of career politicians in the neo-conservative world order.

Republican and Loyalist veterans will be hauled before the courts occasionally to maintain the false perception that British Law is the fairest, most equitable law in the world: due process, fair trial, the right to remain silent, consult with a solicitor, full disclosure of the evidence against you, evenly balanced and applied etc. etc. etc.

It is a one sided approach in that the working class foot-soldiers of Loyalism and Republicanism will forever live under a Sword of Damocles not knowing when a knock will come to the door from 30, 40, 50... years back. No knock-on-the-door will have anything to do with justice though; the knocks will come in accordance with the political expediency of the day and maintaining the fiction of the impartiality and fairness of British Law.

The state, along with their agents within Republicanism and Loyalism will not live under this mortal threat. The killers of Pat Finucane will not come under the scrutiny of British law. Nor will the assassination squads who stalked our streets in the 1970s, the British Army unit The MRF; nor any of their descendents in the FRU who ran the UDA’s targeting of civilians – despite having full access to British Army and RUC intelligence files on IRA and INLA soldiers the UDA failed miserably to make any impact with their targeting preferring instead to phone an innocent taxi driver from a depot known to employ Catholics and then shoot the poor man dead and claim he was in the IRA.

Closed Material Procedures now in operation in the court system facilitates imprisonment and victimisation of people the state holds a grudge against, peopled perceived to be a threat to the state and the occasional scapegoat to appease political expediency – assessment of threat and grudge will rest with HM Security Services who have a record of not getting it right.

The days of a fair trial with full disclosure of allegations and evidence against you with the right to rebuttal are dead and gone. Secret allegations and secret “evidence” can be, and presently is being presented to closed courts by police/security officers from which the accused and his/her legal representatives are forbidden: Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” has come true. It is possible to be imprisoned and cast into a limbo-existence on undisclosed and legally forbidden to be disclosed “evidence”.

Being processed through the justice system today is more nightmarish than at any time over the past fifty years. All legal safeguards are gone at the stroke of a pen and the most worrying thing is that practically nobody knows; the erosion of civil liberties is a silent, creeping cancer kept from our vision by distractions of manufactured news and entertainment in a world driven by celebrity, spin and image.

Internal exile, an old favourite of the Soviet Union in Cold War days and much criticised by the British as a gross violation of human rights now operates as a facet of the British Justice system in Ireland. Martin Corey despite being freed from Maghaberry Prison is not allowed to return home to his family and friends, if he returns to live in, or even visit Lurgan he will be returned to prison. If he or his solicitor speaks with the media or anybody else about the terms of his release and internal exile he will be returned to prison.

Similar stringent bail conditions exist and are in operation now which exile people from their own home towns, from returning to their families while they await trial, prohibit them from travelling in cars except for taxis along with a plethora of other repressive measures designed to socially isolate and demoralise the individual and prohibit all contact with friends, family and comrades.

The arrest and malicious charging of Ivor Bell is but the latest travesty of justice. Ivor Bell is a sacrificial offering on the altar of political expediency and peace process politics; the British know Ivor Bell well and know he had no part to play in the abduction and disappearance of Jean McConville. They also know he was court-martialed by a man who was never in the IRA and sentenced to death in 1985, sentence suspended so long as he doesn’t speak about it and the reasons for it to anybody.

Peace process politics are the politics of illusion; nothing changes in real terms, only the faces of the architects of our oppression. Poverty levels and social injustices increase while opportunities for progress decrease. Health, housing and education conditions are being savaged. Wages and salaries are frozen for the men and women of little or no property while wages/salaries for politicians and councillors rise extraordinarily!

The Holy-Grail of Policing and Justice was achieved by Sinn Fein but all it has done is tighten the control of the police-state over all our lives, histories and futures. The Policing Board – that great accountability mechanism for us the people – is a white elephant! The Policing Board can talk till the cows come home about burglaries, robberies, car crime, and any other issue relevant but it is absolutely forbidden by law from engaging in any talk about political policing. Discussion of any sort relating to counterinsurgency and the threat or otherwise from dissident republican groupings is prohibited. Given that the main area of contention in policing tends to be its approach to Irish separatists then the Policing Board is as useful a tit to a bull. The devolution of Policing and Justice to the Northern Ireland Assembly has not been a liberating experience it has been a tightening of the British noose around our Irish necks.

The hypocrisy of the British in this entire charade is exposed in their one-sided, vengeful pursuance of geriatric republican and loyalist foot-soldiers while psychopathic paratroopers and their ilk still go unquestioned, uncharged and their daily lives totally uninterrupted with visits to interrogation centres and prisons. The political elite of British society who oversaw the Dirty War and gave the orders for executions will never have the inconvenience of having to answer any questions about their roles in the deaths of Irish citizens. Such is the peace our world-class negotiators negotiated us into. We never had a chance.


  1. Scary stuff Gerard and what makes it worse is that former friends/comrades in quisling $inn £eind are now as much a part of the problem as the unionist junta that created the original problem here,quisling $inn £eind got it right when they said "an island of equals" yip we were equally slaughtered on both sides of the border by those who make and break the rules, but then the victor always calls the shots, while their quisling minions run about with their thumbs up each others bums and their minds in neutral,trying to con the population here that if the few "dissos" were to go away we would all be so much better of,while all the time the erosion of human rights and civil liberties goes on at an alarming rate,its beginning to look to me that quisling $inn £einds role in all this is that of the clown, we are all so busy laughing at them and their dup cronies to see what really is happening,the circus that Stormont really is has to be nothing more than a distraction to blindside the people here about the machinations of those who really run this place ie MI5.

  2. These are exactly the thoughts that roam my head, but I have had great difficulty finding the words to express how I feel. Reading this almost gives me a feeling of self-vindication.

    It has taken me a long time to arrive here, and I was somewhat like an alcoholic drowning in their own disease, refusing that I had a problem. But I finally had my moment of clarity, my political epiphany, and I have realised that PSF are the enablers, the cancer that fuels this vengeful Police State, this corrupt landlording, "precious block grant," welfare cuts State, where a few remain safe if they are good girls and boys, and others are sacrificed not only to keep the bourgeois elite happy, but to remind us that they have won the war.

    Excellent article.

  3. A powerful article. It seems to me, though, that for all its oppression, political policing may be the wedge end of an issue that might unify both Republican and Loyalist working classes. It was the working class neighborhoods of Belfast that suffered the overwhelming brunt of The Troubles. Those same neighborhoods - both Republican and Loyalist - suffer from poverty, lack of jobs, rampant drug abuse and political indifference today. Is it possible that the issue of political policing, and the greater issue of an impartial South African-style truth commission might loosen the grip of the tribal political parties and unite activists and victims on both sides of the sectarian divide?

    Working class Republicans and Loyalists suffered during The Troubles. They continue to suffer under Stormont and political policing today. Could that suffering be hammered into a bridge between the two communities?

  4. Gerard this is a good assessment. Even if we don’t share their objectives , it is indisputable their negotiating skills were poor, as evidenced by the fact that they came out with something sub-Sunningdale for nationalists. Adams deals very well in hyperbole, but the court transcripts of him squirming under light cross examination at Aine’s court case show he ‘doesn’t do detail’ as well. The end result of all this more jailed republicans.

  5. Not only did SF fail to make the PSNI RUC accountable, they claimed they were unaware that nearly 1000 RUC men/women, including detectves involved in collusion were re-employed by the back door as civilian workers , with many of them involved in continuing the political policing " That hasn't gone away you know"
    Great article, and ad someone said above, feel vindicated for realizing who the real traitors are.

  6. Gerard,
    Very succinctly put – well done.

    You mention negotiations skills being poor. You don’t need negotiation skills when you’re working for those you’re apparently negotiating against....for instance, Donaldson informed the British of what SF tactics were and he is the only one we publicly know about!!! The British controlled the whole ceasefire and settlement from the start...there wasn’t one person involved in those so called negotiations that wasn’t there without the approval of the British...not one!

    I think out of all the reports available about the whole process is the statement in one of those Downing Street books by the British Prime minister’s PA (Powell or Campbell or someone like that) about Adams’ first comment when he entered the negotiating room, at Leeds Castle or somewhere like that, where he asked - what was for lunch!!!!!!!!!!
    Now in all my years of business meetings if anyone on my team had ever walked in to a crucial meeting and come off with that comment at the start of the meeting I would have reacted right away.....right away......and anyone else in business would agree to this.....that person who made that comment would automatically have been labelled as a potential quisling in the negotiations and were basically announcing to the opposition that they had achieved the deal they agreed secretly....I would have called a halt to the meeting or had the person removed and dealt with them later.....

    The negotiations were controlled from start to finish by the British and who remember, they were all business men first and politicians second.

  7. Niall , of course you are broadly correct. Infact the meetings decended into farce when at Gerry Adams suggestion, he had himself and Tony Blair hugging a tree in the back garden for energy or purity etc. I do believe some negotiating skill would still be needed from republican representatives because they would need to present enough to the grassroots to justify that direction, and it was still the unionist position was to conceed nothing.

  8. To John Kelly....SF claimed they were unaware? Quid pro quo surely for the hundreds of SF members and ex-convicts, and their family members, who hold government funded jobs. Don't mention the war!