Prosperous Taig – Must Be A Drug Dealer

Anthony McIntyre thinks institutional sectarianism helps explain the PSNI labelling of Greenvale hotel owner Michael McElhatton a suspected drug dealer.

De-arrested - that is a term we don't often hear. The Guardian, not without a large dose of scepticism, would seem to have called it right:
Being "de-arrested" … sounds like the sort of panicky about-face that Kelvin MacKenzie used to deploy when a particularly scandalous story in the Sun turned out, in fact, to be baseless; he referred to it as a "reverse ferret".
The PSNI must have rummaged through the get-out clause dictionary to come up with that one when they realised that they had baseless grounds for arrest on "suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply” of Mickey McElhatton, the owner of the Greenvale Hotel, where three young people were crushed to death on St Patrick's Night.

In a search of McElhatton’s home, the cunstables find silver paper and washing powder. Suddenly, the grim-faced gumshoes conclude that it is a drugs find. Maybe it was Ariel, which gave rise to McElhatton being a Class A drug dealer. Had his detergent of choice been Surf or Persil, that would have put him well down the food chain as a suspected lowly Class S or P drug dealer. Shoppers beware: items not to include in your trolley are washing powder and baking foil. Even Direct Action Against Drugs never targeted anybody for that when it was on the go back in the 1990s.

Right away, Mickey McElhatten is depicted as some Fagin type, rubbing his greedy hands, warmed by fingerless gloves, in joyful anticipation of literally squeezing the underaged into his den from where he can sell them Class A gear.

The loathsome projection of that image in such emotional circumstances was every bit as gratuitous as it was baleful and dangerous. As McElhatton claimed, the PSNI action:
blackened my name and caused so much upset for so many people especially those who are grieving and distressed over the events at the Greenvale Hotel.
Nor has it helped advance the very necessary investigation one inch. The opposite perhaps. Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray had earlier assured parents that they need not fear any probe into underage drinking if their children were to come forward with their accounts. Sounded good at the time but after the treatment of Mickey McElhatton, the chances that people will believe him must have diminished. Even more so given his refusal to apologise for his force’s malicious dissemination of calumny against McElhatton. Already there is a view forming amongst locals that the hotel's owner is the target of police vindictiveness for not having been sufficiently deferential to the RUC back in the day. Just this morning a former republican prisoner commented to me that:
Pity the cops un-done their good work almost as quickly as they responded in the first instance by besmirching Mickey McElhatton's good name and reputation.
The Plod Service Of Northern Ireland, or the Prod Service of Northern Ireland, either way it is still the same old PSNI. A Catholic owns a hotel: must be a drug dealer. Much the same as the Metropolitan Police would view black Londoners and for which Macpherson found it to be institutionally racist. What surprises is that the PSNI did not wheel out Detective Chief Inspector Peter Montgomery, affidavit to boot, swearing blind that McElhatton was convicted of drug dealing in 1975 and sentenced to three years for it. All spurious rubbish, of course, but that never stopped Plod Montgomery in the past.

Sectarianism in the PSNI need not be attitudinal but institutional and operates often unconsciously, anchored in a deep rooted culture shaped by a history of bias mobilisation, reflective of the community from where the police has historically drawn its members.

A breakdown of the makeup of the PSNI provided by the Irish News last month is instructive.

➽Of the 77 officers that hold the rank of chief inspector 58 (75 percent) are Protestant while 17 (22 percent) are Catholic.
➽At inspector level there are 347 officers, with 248 (71 percent) Protestant and 89 (25 percent) Catholic.
➽The percentage breakdown for those who hold the rank of sergeant are similar with 976 appointed to the role.
➽Of that number 687 (70 percent) are Protestant while 275 (28 percent) are Catholic.
➽The statistics begin to narrow at constable level, of which there are 5,033 officers.
➽Of these 3,258 (64 percent) identify as Protestant while 1,720 (34 percent) are Catholic.
➽However, when it comes to student officers the gap begins to widen again, with the figures showing a significant drop in the number of Catholic recruits compared to qualified constables.
➽Of 233 student officers 180 are Protestant (77 percent) and 49 (21 percent) are Catholic.

That arguably is what got Mickey McElhatton labelled a suspected drug dealer. The stain of anti-Catholic bias generated from such a skewed composition will take more than washing powder to cleanse it.


  1. Cant for the life of me understand why they raided his home which had absolutely nothing to do with the tragedy at the hotel...they've completely undermined their investigation with some relatives of the kids who died and which I have been in contact with now quietly thinking that the investigation is completely tarnished to the point that they have absolutely no faith in it...they are very angry to say the least..PSNI/RUC...what's the difference?

  2. So because they are Prod they must be sectarian, is that it?

    1. being Prod would not make a person sectarian any more than being white would make a person racist; being part of a long standing sectarian institution in which the sectarian culture was reproduced to a large extent by composition increases the likelihood of sectarianism: particularly where the change that was meant to transform it never occurred to the extent it was hoped or expected.

    2. Never occured due to lack of Catholics joining up, due to fear of being killed by those in their community who label the PSNI as you have. How can anybody 'win' in that environment?

    3. the same argument used to be advanced to explain why so few Catholics would join it when it was called the RUC. And fear of getting killed is presumably what stops them going up the ranks as well?

      I doubt fear of armed republicans is what prevents the numbers going up. Since being renamed, the PSNI has lost more than twice as many of its members to road accidents as it has to armed attacks.

      Armed republicans will attack any cop they can access, not simply the Catholic ones.

      Maybe if the cops quit lying about and covering up for the past, refrained from arresting journalists who investigated the past, did not have to face court orders to pass over documents to the Ombudsman, arrested Massacre Mike Jackson rather than Gerry Adams alone - that would probably boost the numbers of Catholic recruits. How could nationalist confidence possibly win in that stacked environment.

    4. I agree the stigma is a major detterent, but the only way organisations really change is from within. More Catholics need to join but won't. It's a Catch 22 that helps nobody.