Baa, Baa Blank Cheque

Simon Smyth with an intervention in the debate on the police use of informers. The author frequently comments on TPQ and expresses a preference for the politics of Sinn Fein over and above those of other parties.

I find that constant referral to the leadership and others in Sinn Fein as being informers or sheep takes strength away from the arguments which criticise Sinn Fein policy and practice.

Now, Gerry Kelly supports the use of informers but this doesn't make him an informer any more than any other person who supports the use of informers be they SDLP or Sticks or the ordinary man in the street. A better argument, as has been articulated, is that he isn't a Republican or is much less of one.

I support Sinn Fein but don't give them a blank cheque. I support policing in so far as it deals with crime and doesn't exploit crime like it did in the past. The return of petty, vindictive prosecutions against the spirit of the GFA today, the weakness of the Policing Board, the mismanagement of the HET and the poor candidate selection of the Ombudsman are all arguments against supporting the police. However there are more weighty arguments in favour of supporting the police particularly when dealing with crime. There is a comparatively high level of accountability and transparency.  

It can't be left up to Republicans of today to carry out policing style investigations and/or punishments. The best police forces in the world make mistakes and Republicans are even more prone to making mistakes through nepotism, favouritism, closing ranks or pure human error. This is because Republicans aren't skilled, qualified or resourced to deal with policing. All organisations are prone to human weaknesses like abuse of power or negligence. At least the PSNI have accountability measures like the Policing Board and the Ombudsman.  

No single organisation can be in charge of both policing and the distribution of justice. Justice has not only to be done but has to be seen to be done.  

No organisation should investigate itself. This goes for Republicans and the PSNI as well.  

Republicans will always have paedophiles in their midst. You don't magically stop having the potential to become a sex offender as soon as you join the IRA. There will always be weak people: bullies, paedophiles, thieves, the corrupt etc. If people aren't allowed to go to the police to report ordinary criminal behaviour then the mistakes of the past will re-occur. Your neighbour or your kith and kin could be a victim. What then?  

The crime will happen, it is how it is dealt with that matters.

I don't support the use of informers since it jeopardises people's lives, exploits individuals and turns a blind eye to serious anti-social crimes to pressure those perpetrators into a blind alley of a double life. The practice involves bribery, blackmail and other pressure. Even if the informer is completely and enthusiastically a spy it exploits his right to life in a squalid intelligence war where grey is the colour of choice.

A civilian giving information about Republicanism shouldn't be equated with a paid informer or agent. A victim of a crime unrelated to the conflict but which involves a Republican as the perpetrator should also never be equated to informing and they should always be actively encouraged to go to the police. The perpetrator is responsible for that, not the victim.

Every organisation is compromised to one level or another so there has to be informers in Sinn Fein. However, blaming Sinn Fein policy on this by exaggerating the extent of the infiltration is unnecessary, specious, and detracts from any valuable, worthwhile debate.

As for painting the others in Sinn Fein as sheep it is untrue as most of them are intelligent, knowledgeable people who have decided for themselves what political direction they take. They are just as intelligent as their detractors and accusations of blindly acting at the behest of a leadership again detracts from powerful, solid criticism.

Sinn Fein people also take away from the debate with calling detractors "informers" or "dissidents".  

Only one party is the winner and that is the British and Unionist establishment. We are all chasing our tails in frustration at a flawed situation with the Unionists laughing quietly and possibly some hoping that harsh words will spill over into violence.

I say this with respect for people who articulate opposing views but I have no respect at the times when the same people make baseless statements based on hearsay and rumour. Better to attack policy on the grounds of principle than employ character assassination based on wishful thinking.

I had no individual in mind writing this neither accuser nor accused as it is a current trend which has seriously hampered debate.


  1. Simon with respect you don't get it! What you refer to as the PSNI are nothing more and nothing less than the Continuity RUC. This bullshit, frankly about accountability is nauseating. The CRUC are accountable to nobody other than their masters, the same people whom those at Stormont are accountable to, Perfideous Albion, Sin é

  2. Simon at this moment a reply of mine to your posts on another thread remains unloaded if that is the correct term ,your conditional support of quisling $inn £eind is not explained here , for e,g , when did you start supporting quisling $inn £eind was it post 94 if so then so be it how can anyone with a bit of wit support their record of government ,corruption seems to be the only thing that they and their cronies in Stormont have managed successfully,and I reckon that is because mi5 allows them , however if you were a supporter pre the so called gfa then how do you reconcile the complete 360 degree that Gerry Itwasntme has brought that party, the use of informers has always been a touchy subject amongst republicans ,so many of us know people left with holes in the back of their heads executed by informers and some today at the heart of Stormont , we have the Fenton spectacle where some argue that 5 informers were in that house I argue 7 informing has been at the very heart of Quisling $inn £eind for so long now and no wonder they are riddled with them . so for commandant Kelly to say he supports the use of informers comes neither as a surprise or shock to me or I,m sure many many others after all his cronie s especially Martybroy has called for people to inform many times , mind you Simon what I cant understand is why with this love for informing why noone has ever been charged with Robert Mc Cartneys murder or that lad Quinn in Armagh ,mind you giving the track record of most of quisling $inn Feinds leadership when it comes to informing its more a case of do as I say not as I do.

  3. Marty,

    sorry for the delay in getting your comment and the others up. We were out in Dublin from this afternoon and just made it home there.

  4. I don't agree with Simon on this matter but he is welcome here where he can make his case as he sees fit. He has never been afraid to engage with those he disagrees with and by his contributions has made TPQ a better blog.

  5. That people are angry with the like of Gerry Kelly actively encouraging and promoting the use of informers is little wonder. If this debate has come out of the resignation of Frank McGirr in Coalisland then let's hope it's the first of many and let's hope that the lies people were told to keep them onboard through the duplicitous decision to work with the British police in Ireland are finally being recognised by those of a republican disposition still aligned with Provisional Sinn Fein, who thought it worthwhile seeing where this would all go.

    We see now where it has gone. Yes, it has gone that far that the Sinn Fein leadership - and unfortunately by extension its membership - are now encouraging support for and contributing to a process that played such a critical role in the deaths of those like Danny Doherty and Willie Fleming, who's 30th anniversaries have just passed. Such open support for informing must surely be the last straw for anyone who still backs that leadership - is that what you're prepared to put your name to?

    The idea of a tactical and limited support to bring about an accountable policing service has been shown up as bogus, this has been just another stripping away of whatever republicanism might have been left in the Sinn Fein movement - support for the informers who killed so many people here is surely the most anti-republican stance ANYONE can take, never mind those who rose to power and indeed wealth on the strength of those who lie in an early grave at the hands of these very same informers. People should not inform and those of position within society who encourage it and proffer support for it share in the guilt

  6. Dixie1916, I agree that the PSNI are too much like the RUC. The Chris Patten proposals didn't go far enough for a start and even those recommendations were not fully implemented. I can see why many people wouldn't give any support to the PSNI however what I am talking about is the gap of access to justice which remains to this day. Particularly when people say not to go to the PSNI.

    What I am suggesting is that anyone who has been a victim of a crime should be allowed to go to the PSNI to report it. Dixie is your position that people should never go to the PSNI no matter what the crime? What if someone finds a loved one murdered? What if they are critically injured, or seriously injured or have suffered GBH or ABH or another type of assault? I have listed those violent crimes from the most serious to the least. Which of them are serious enough to go to the PSNI? All, some or none? Where on the spectrum does interaction with the PSNI begin?

    What about sexual violence, rape, child abuse or grooming? Should people go to the police with only some types of sexual abuse or none or all?

    What about theft, burglary, etc? Can you name a crime that people shouldn't go to the PSNI? Or should?

    The PSNI are very much like the RUC but the Ombudsman and Policing Board have at times held them to account. I realise this has been limited but these are some mechanisms there that the RUC never had.

    If someone goes to the PSNI to report a crime, any crime, and the PSNI try to take advantage to get security related information then that person should be encouraged to bring that approach into the public light. Whether through a newspaper, a politician, a religious or other community leader, etc.

    The alternative is to go to Republicans or Loyalists. However I will keep the argument around Republicanism as Loyalists have a more distinct record of criminality with drugs, prostitution, and petty vengeance.

    Let us assume someone supports Republicanism wholeheartedly and agrees that they should be the first port of call if anything goes wrong. We firstly have to assume there are still informers within Republicanism. If not it will be the first time in history. We also have to assume that every organisation in the world has it's bad apples- the informers, the cheats, the greedy, the thieves, the violent bullies, the sex offenders.

    People have human weakness and they don't magically stop having the potential to become scumbags once they join whichever Republican group. So when eventually a crime is carried out against someone in the community the possibility of it being investigated or influenced by people of unsound character or those with less impartiality than you'd like is great.

    It is great in the PSNI also but at least there are fall back positions. There will always be nepotism, favouritism and corruption in any organisation. Republicans aren't skilled in investigating crime or dispensing punishment. They don't have the technology, the forensic ability or resources, any outside accountability. The only thing going against the PSNI is it's agenda but that is where people can go to the Ombudsman or otherwise seek publicity and understanding of why the crime they reported was mismanaged. If an investigation into a crime is mismanaged by a Republican group were do people go then?

    If Stakeknife was in charge of dispensing justice against alleged informers so then will you find other people of bad character in charge of investigating civilian style crimes. Even someone who has less impartiality than you would like. He or she doesn't need to be someone of bad character to make a poor decision.

    That is the gap I am talking about. One where Republicanism is unskilled and under-resourced and where investigations are possibly being overseen by the biased or the corrupt. On the other hand if the PSNI try to gain unrelated intelligence to the crime at hand then there are other avenues open to the victim.

  7. Marty, I have supported Sinn Fein since I was little. The earliest event I have in memory is asking for a badge at an election stall in the early 1980s, maybe 1982. When there has been a Sinn Fein candidate in my constituency I have voted for them since the early 1990s pre-ceasefire and post GFA.

    I realise they are a shadow of their former selves.

    I believe in always casting your vote, however, and as such I balance chance of success with policies closest to my own views. Without a viable alternative since I believe in always voting and unless a more suitable candidate comes along I will continue to vote that way.

    You are right though there is plenty to be unhappy about and my support gets slimmer day by day.

    Sean Bres, I am very much against the use of informers also. I disagree with Gerry Kelly and it is changes in policy of things like this that stick in my craw. I don't even think the SDLP support the use of informers. I could be wrong of course. I think Gerry's rationale that “giving information is giving information whether you are a covert human intelligent source or otherwise” is baseless and false. Even the PIRA thought covert human intelligence sources were worse than the man in the street giving info about 'suspicious activity' for example. One gets paid and is an apparent Republican in a Republican organisation who betrays his fellows the other some non-combatant ordinary man in the street who may have no particular ideology and whose intent is probably less severe.

    The infiltration of Republican groups can be mitigated but will always re-occur. Paid agents should be pariahs more so than some concerned citizen who has no affiliation to anyone.

  8. Simon,

    I wonder how many of us who now criticise SF could have stayed on board despite all the problems and contradictions had the direction been honestly explained and the constraints within which decision making processes had to operate laid out. And all of this done in the context of alternatives being implausible.

    The lying at every turn and the authoritarian 'this is the way it is' attitude bred so much mistrust.

    Leadership is never easy but neither is being led when those leading are engaged in so much lying.

  9. AM, I suppose as an outsider I didn't experience any betrayal in the change of direction. I think you're right in that if people were treated in a dishonest manner they would be less happy. On the other hand I don't think many still within Sinn Fein thought in 1998 that they'd eventually be in such a place with policies so radically different than what went before. The incremental speed of change tempers the response.

    However, accepting that informers are always going to be there is an example of one of many policy changes that could never be sugar coated with honesty.

    I put up with it since they are the best of a bad lot. However some individuals within any party would be better or more acceptable than others.

  10. Simon,

    you put your finger on what is a clear strategy of deception to be employed in managing the base. I am not sure that the sugar coating was even necessary - just look at how the party will run to embrace the pro-informer perspective of Gerry Kelly. They put their own sugar on it.

    What patient explaining could have done was allowed the base to resist and have a genuine input to policy rather than be the mere recipients of it handed down from on high.

    Keep writing Simon - it helps the writer and the reader both to think.

  11. AM "Keep writing Simon - it helps the writer and the reader both to think."

    Thanks for your support Anthony. I find other posts on the quill excellent and if mine are of any use to anybody to any extent I would be happy.

    It started out as a point on the use of name calling instead of attacking policy. That goes for all sides. I think it hampers debate particularly when there are many valid arguments against Sinn Fein's positions. I think dismissing people instead of dissecting arguments could be our downfall as it gets polarised, stagnant and meaningless after a while. Saying that there has been much valuable debate on the quill and we are all the better for it.

    I found myself changing perspectives on this matter but I stand by everything I posted. I will elaborate on or withdraw an argument if challenged.

    Only bigots are impervious to valid argument and there has been valid points made against my own position particularly support for Sinn Fein which is something I have to wrestle with on a personal level.

  12. Informants are a complicated animal. They are percieved by the dronal society builders as acceptable and worthwile, for those they inform on regard them as worse than just about anything. Then there are different kinds of informers. Green ones, orange once, crimmanal ones any many other types for sure.

    Simon, there are many reasons why it comes down to attacks which appear at first glance to be personal, but many who comment on informants do so from the perspective of being part of something which has deeply wounded them. I suppose it it is a bit like when a relationship breaks down and gets really messy. When as an individual you invest a lot into something only to find what you invested in was a complete fraud, as Dixie & Marty have pointed out on many occasions.

    The people who reside in the north are pretty messed up, whether they what to admit it or not. Also there is a colossal amout of stress and frustration that goes with living here if you are switched on, and, not just a drone.

    Different topic.

    Over the coming week we have two asses arriving to push through an agreement, so we are told. But it would appear now more like agreeing under duress.

    My take. SF will make an agreement, this will lead to them signing up to welfare reform although no doubt it will be dressed up in the clothes of compromise. The trough at stormont has been under threat of yeilding no more gravy, so expect a brand new trough, like the one MMCG suggested, for them all to get their greedy snouts into.
    Casemeant Park will go ahead with a nod and a wink, sure the rugby world cup hinges on it.
    SF will be allowed to keep using the justice system to frustrate justice, much in the same way the brits have used it to frustrate genuine victims from recieving justice and truth. The huns get to march past Ardoyne. SF and DUP get electected to misgovern once again because less people vote.

  13. Feel te Love- I get your point about people being deeply wounded. I am a little bewildered at times by the changes and pragmatism can only explain so much. So I guess although it takes away from the debate it can be explained.

    As for your political insight on the latest talks it is perhaps the closest one to the truth I have heard yet. They should have refused to renegotiate as the Unionists will only settle for an agreement that suits them.

    At least it has to be better in their eyes than Hass. With the polarised and positional nature of our negotiations post GFA we can expect a deal that suits unionists more than Hass and which therefore will suit Nationalists less. It isn't inevitable but it is probable. Two sides can be winners but not if you look at the St. Andrews agreement and the triple lock veto.

  14. Simon a cara there is a hell of a difference between pragmatism and treachery, it has been proven beyond doubt that Adams aided by cronies allowed six men to die needlessly on hungerstrike , then he usurped the leadership of PSF with the use of non existing votes ie .cumman and comhairle ceanntair that either didnt function or exist,their enterance to Stormont was aided by one big lie after another remember Commandant Kellys remarks "we are here for a united Ireland " yeah how right that has turned out to be ,partition copper fastened .then not an once not a bullet to Martybroy calling republicans traitors ffs before he bowed to Liz the brit ..the promise of putting manners on the police mmmm those well paid of RUC rehired Irish language act fuck sake the phoney Ulster Scots gets the same recognition . housing in North Belfast a chronic shortage and yip quisling $inn £eind let that fucking bigot eejit Mc Causland to deprive the people of homes they badly need , no sports facilities of any substance exist in Ardoyne , their record of government is beyond a disgrace and thats not mentioning the deceit surrounding water meters and the expenses scandal ,top that all with sexual abuse cover up and thats the party you would vote for , personally I ,d rather usse my voting card for a wick for a molotov cocktail .sin é

  15. I admitted earlier that I find much to complain about Sinn Fein but I vote for the least worst option which has a chance of success. It is a flawed practice I guess but there are few options for a meaningful protest vote in many constituencies.

    I had a list of complaints as long as my arm at the time of the last election.

    If voting was compulsory with a "None of the above" option I feel it would both help the smaller parties and show the antipathy people have for the main parties.

    If the status quo remains my voting method will remain however I do admit that my support is decreasing continuously, almost to the point of no return. At the moment it is qualified and not resolute.

  16. Simon,you deserve credit for the way you have put your point forward. It is a difficult position a lot of republican nationalists are faced with. The shinners are being lauded as the only show in town worth following. A very good friend of mine has been busy trying to convince me to vote for this bunch of cunts next time round, another shinner suggested to me that by not voting for them would be tantamount to being a traitor. Nearly every day something happens which to me shows them as the deceitful lying scum that they are. Personally I was never that hard to convince.
    You seem to be at a crossroads. I have no doubt in the future you will make the correct decision. If it is necessary to become an informer to gain some warped form of a united Ireland they can stick it up their ass. I for one want no part of it. Unfortunately the saying that the people get the government they deserve is true.

  17. Pat, I think you are right when you refer to a United Ireland gained or influenced by a party which accepts the use of informers as being unacceptable.

    Many people want a United Ireland on this island and farther afield. How do you prevent the right-wing, the capitalists, the ones advocating the use of informers, the greedy, the corrupt, the Irish Tea Party types molding a United Ireland in their image?

    How do you get the message out there?

    I suppose sectarianism is less of a live issue in establishment parties which is a good thing but it is still a problem in the community and without dealing with it or with the right wing/capitalists/the supporters of the malevolent intelligence community dealing with our problems a United Ireland looks less palatable.

    I don't agree with the much used quote that people deserve to be governed by who they vote for. You don't hold a person responsible for being a victim of a con man in day to day life so why would you in politics?

    Anyway, footage of the Dail is on TV. I am away to throw up.

  18. Simon,

    Pat Murphy's manner of engaging with you is something more of us could do with emulating.

  19. AM, I have no complaint to make about any response above. However, I agree with you that Pat's approach was kind. A little generosity of spirit, which is something everyone lacks at times, is always welcome.

    I have lacked tolerance myself on occasion on this site. So you are right to highlight Pat's friendly tone and balanced content.

  20. Simon,

    no, you never complained. It is a rough and tumble site and will hardly change. But Pat's is a fine way of dealing with difference rather than frightening it off.

  21. Achh,now yous have made me blush.

  22. “We are all chasing our tails in frustration at a flawed situation....”

    Simon, why support it then? The ‘whole’ is the problem therefore the ‘whole’ needs changed........your argument is reflective of that very witty scene in the Monty Python film, The Life of Brian, where the Sadducees are sitting around in a room at a meeting and John Cleese asks,
    “What have the Romans ever done for us?”....the response he gets is unexpected – good roads, wine, education, law and order, etc, etc.......all true, but yet the Roman occupation and its ministries were always the problem.....those other aspects are welcome but could be easily achieved without the was never about roads, wine, education or law and internal solution is not a feasible reality.

  23. Niall, the chasing tails comment refers to the name-calling on both sides which hampers debate.

    The flawed situation, and you are right, needs to be changed. My quandary is do I a) vote for nobody, b) give a protest vote or c) vote for the least worst party.

    I believe in always using my vote so the first option is not going to work and the second option isn't feasible either as there are no suitable voices of protest in my area. This leaves the answer which is to vote for the least worst party with a chance of success.

    I suppose my voting strategy leaves alot to be desired for some but it is the only logical way I can see.

    If there was an option on a ballot for 'none of the above' I would use it or if there was a decent alternative I would use them even if it was merely a protest vote.

    People would be up in arms if they were not allowed a vote, myself included, so I am always going to use it no matter how flawed the system or candidature.

    If it was a choice between only the DUP and Ulster Unionist I would vote Ulster Unionist as the least worst option (depending on personalities and constituency work done).

    My main point was the chasing of tails is preventing debate and harming the chances for change.

    I want change. We are all getting in the way of my main point through focus on my vote. I only mentioned it to be honest and open so that when I called for people to stop inferring the hierarchy of Sinn Fein are collectively or individually working for MI5 (because it hampers actual debate based on policy) it wouldn't lose it's validity if later it was discovered where my vote went.

  24. Simon,

    I see the quandary you feel it poses but the right not to vote has to be as important as the right to vote. About ten years ago I felt compelled to write in The Blanket opposing the call to make voting mandatory.

    The ultimate dilemma for people who feel as you do is what to do if the options are two fascist parties; one that commits more barbarities than the other?

    Sometimes it is really better not to vote than allow legitimacy to be stoked up on the claims of having a mandate provided by the voter.

  25. AM, I would be in favour of mandatory voting but only if there is a "none of the above" option. It would give everyone a voice, smaller parties who normally don't receive a vote because people think there is no use would benefit the most and if a large proportion of the electorate selected "none of the above" it would be the strongest possible indication of disenchantment rather than having the non-interested and the disenchanted being lumped together.

  26. Simon,,

    "none of the above" implies that if there was something else the person might vote. Compelling them to vote when they are opposed to it denies them the right to dissent from the electoral system. By desisting from voting people might be saying that "none of the above" does not accurately reflect their position. They might feel they are being compelled to convey legitimacy onto the electoral system through having to vote for "none of the above". It seems to me that it is hardly democratic to coerce people into voting when they do not want to do so.

  27. people died for my right not to vote. abstain from democracy. its a racket.

  28. Grouch,

    Political candidates should be asked who or what are they prepared to die for. Whilst connected to a lie detector...Love to see Mary Lou and Gerry et al answer that one.

  29. AM,
    Apologies. I am only noticing your post now.

    I don't think by voting you are necessarily conferring legitimacy on the electoral system if the practice was mandatory. However it would be interesting to find out how many people don't find the electoral system legitimate. I suppose there would be some but what is the most viable alternative?

    Questions of disputed sovereignty aside what alternatives do people have for democracy? I am not a cheerleader for democracy by the way. As we have seen with Chavez and Hamas their democratic mandates are rejected while more harmful democracies are accepted. The superpowers have their favourites.

    However if people have a moral or ethical opposition to the electoral system rather than purely the candidates I can't see why that can't be accommodated.

  30. AM, I suppose ultimately I am only keen on the idea of mandatory voting in theory. It's a bit like ethically and morally sustainable water charges. They would both only work in a homogeneous world.

    I am keen on water charges if the safeguards were in place but commodification leading to privatisation seems inevitable if it goes ahead in Ireland today.

    As for mandatory voting it isn't something I would campaign for. I suppose there are many reasons why a valid concept wouldn't work well practically.

    The reason water charges wouldn't work is less to do with practical application and more to do with the predominantly capitalist world we live in. Which puts any laudable application of that concept at the mercy of capitalism.

    Multinationals owning our water? Too much of a risk.

    However I feel strongly in favour of conserving water and funding the infrastructure properly. Ultimately my views on mandatory voting are more whimsical and based on a less solid foundation of beliefs or values.

    Although I would maintain the right to vote is more important than the right not to vote.

    Luckily both of the two arguments I mentioned have core objectives that can otherwise be met. The principles behind both are more powerful than the positional arguments.