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.