Lesley Stock ✒ teases out opinion on the British government's amnesty proposals from four former combatants. 

I had never read the Stormont House Agreement, nor the Governments’ proposals in relation to the Amnesty (due to be legislated on in the coming Autumn), and to be honest, I was shocked when initially reading the SHA.

Considering this Agreement was published in December 2014, after political representatives spent 11 weeks thrashing out the terms of the agreement, then for the passing of a Bill in 2015, to ensure it was legislated on, it would seem to me as a lay person, that those political reps have wasted their time and effort in even coming to an agreement back then, with the British Governments’ Amnesty proposals basically trashing the legacy issues which had been agreed.

In fact, even Before the British Government introduced its plans for Amnesty, it was really quite shocking that parts of the agreement Still hadn’t been put into practice!! The Oral History Archive was meant to have been established by 2016! To my knowledge, there is still a distinct lack of such a body, a mere 5 Years on! 

With many Peace and Reconciliation charities and organisations now performing their own version of oral history podcasts, YouTube channels and workshops, it would seem that organisations Not connected with any centralised government funded archive, have managed to get their act together much quicker than politicians and policy makers! There is no doubt, that recording people’s lived experiences has had a huge positive impact on their lives, and for many, relating their trauma, experiences and hurt has gone a long way to a sense of healing. I certainly found that relating my story to others, has had a more therapeutic effect on my trauma than counselling ever had. So, how come this part of the SHA seems to still be languishing in the abyss of ‘getting things done’? I, for one, can’t even contemplate why such a welcomed healing process has still not been acted on.

Then, we have the Commission on Flags, Identity and Culture…. Again, no movement since the SHA on an issue which seems to rear its ugly head continually, with as much ferocity and intransigence as ever! This to me, is such an important issue to try to get agreement on and to legislate on the likes of the offensive material being put on bonfires, the size of the bonfires and what is genuinely culture and what people feel are identity. 

If, we, as a collective people, can’t agree and have decisive and capable politicians to discuss and publish a report within an agreed timeframe, what hope and confidence can we have in our politicians? Well, to put it truthfully – None! It seems that politicians can’t decide what the best way forward is, with no compromise, no sense of urgency and quite frankly, to me it seems, would rather point score and bicker amongst themselves rather than to try to find as many common issues as possible.

Then, in the SHA, we come to the areas of real concern in the Amnesty proposals. The Historical Investigations Unit was set up to look at legacy issues with a new pair of eyes. The problem is, this unit isn’t fit for purpose either! I know one victim who, since 1973, when he was left paralyzed, has never had any contact with anyone from the unit. Not really that unusual I hear you say. The problem is that when his solicitor wrote to the unit – now apparently renamed LIB regarding his case – they were ‘investigating’ it already. Makes you wonder whether they merely ‘wait’ until some clued in solicitor requests information about an incident, until they ‘look into it’! 

And how does the Amnesty impact this? Well, in effect – all of those cases become null and void. To date, since 2011, there have only been 26 prosecutions brought under the terms of HIU, these files are sent to the Policing Board initially, where Gerry Kelly convicted IRA member (bomber, escaped prisoner and - but for the grace of God - Attempted murderer) has the chance to see and digest documents about his former comrades!!! 

And what of the Irish Government, have they introduced any new legislation to allow HIU access to their secret files?? The British Government will be erasing the very agreement put in place through legislation that was aimed at tackling legacy issues! One of the main issues of SHA was to uphold the law. In fact, the following were a list of principals agreed upon, and now the Amnesty proposals by the British Government are negating these principals!! I can go so far to remind the British Government the words used when they agreed to the SHA:

None of these proposals amount to any form of amnesty. This Government believes fundamentally in the rule of law and amnesties are not something that we would contemplate. Where evidence exists for a prosecution of any crime in relation to the troubles, the law will take its course.

So can anyone tell me what the hell has changed???

As part of the transition to long-term peace and stability the participants agree that an approach to dealing with the past is necessary which respects the following principles:

 

  • promoting reconciliation
  • upholding the rule of law

Amnesty proposals does away with every attempt at getting justice for victims

  • acknowledging and addressing the suffering of victims and survivors; 

Amnesty proposals have disregarded Every Single victim

facilitating the pursuit of justice and information recovery

Amnesty will take away any chance of justice

is human rights compliant; 

Amnesty proposals completely eradicates citizens human rights
  • is balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable. 
Amnesty only works to the advantage of the British and Irish Governments, No-One else will benefit from these ludicrous set of proposals

Have the Government considered the enormous impact that this will have on victims? When Brandon Lewis states he’s consulting on ‘stakeholders’, who Exactly are those stakeholders? The only people he should be consulting are victims. But it would seem that in the context of Northern Ireland stakeholders are mainly perpetrators of crime and makers of victims.

So it would seem that the British Government have only three main reasons for introducing this legislation that they will be the only (apart from some members of the BA and RUC) benefactors of. As SF would say, (hate to admit that they’re right, but they are in this case!) the proposals would allow the British Government to keep everything behind locked doors. Firstly, Every dirty deal, every lie and every corrupt decision will be forever lost in the annals of time. Contrary however to what SF also say, I’ve yet to meet one member of the security forces who wants an amnesty for anyone much less those who they served with who broke the law. Hardly suggestive of an inherent corrupt force.

Secondly, I would also suggest that the Government have thought about the coming elections, not the elections in Northern Ireland, but the U.K. elections. How many veterans and ex-forces are voters? I’m taking a bet that the proposed amnesty is a voting tool for the Conservatives in the U.K. They will hope that this will encourage veterans to place their X on the Conservative box, and if those voters think that this was brought in for any other reason than that, they’re much more stupid than I ever thought possible.

And thirdly, by ceasing any civil actions and further inquests in the road to getting some form of justice, how many ££££millions will be saved? I find the government's proposals abhorrent on all three of these basis. It would also seem that the vast majority of folk have the same opinion. One thing Is for sure - the British Government have let the mask slip where Northern Ireland and victims are concerned. These proposals should be vehemently opposed by every section of the community. Who’d have thought that the British could have united every party in Northern Ireland after so many years!

Is it the norm for agreements which are made over here, to be Not then adhered to? And to make matters worse, then the fundamental issues agreed and signed off on are then unilaterally disregarded by the British Government in the Amnesty proposals!!

I now have an understanding of how our political system works, or should I rephrase it – doesn’t work. It would seem that here, political figures shouldn’t waste the electorate's time by publishing ‘consultation’ documents, if in effect, they’re just going to do their own thing anyway – even if that ‘own thing’ is never adhered to either! And yet again, it’s the innocents who suffer most!

⏩ Lesley Stock is a former PSNI and RUC Officer currently involved in community work. 

Amnesty ➖ Victims Are Always Last In Their Thoughts

Lesley Stock ✒ teases out opinion on the British government's amnesty proposals from four former combatants. 

I had never read the Stormont House Agreement, nor the Governments’ proposals in relation to the Amnesty (due to be legislated on in the coming Autumn), and to be honest, I was shocked when initially reading the SHA.

Considering this Agreement was published in December 2014, after political representatives spent 11 weeks thrashing out the terms of the agreement, then for the passing of a Bill in 2015, to ensure it was legislated on, it would seem to me as a lay person, that those political reps have wasted their time and effort in even coming to an agreement back then, with the British Governments’ Amnesty proposals basically trashing the legacy issues which had been agreed.

In fact, even Before the British Government introduced its plans for Amnesty, it was really quite shocking that parts of the agreement Still hadn’t been put into practice!! The Oral History Archive was meant to have been established by 2016! To my knowledge, there is still a distinct lack of such a body, a mere 5 Years on! 

With many Peace and Reconciliation charities and organisations now performing their own version of oral history podcasts, YouTube channels and workshops, it would seem that organisations Not connected with any centralised government funded archive, have managed to get their act together much quicker than politicians and policy makers! There is no doubt, that recording people’s lived experiences has had a huge positive impact on their lives, and for many, relating their trauma, experiences and hurt has gone a long way to a sense of healing. I certainly found that relating my story to others, has had a more therapeutic effect on my trauma than counselling ever had. So, how come this part of the SHA seems to still be languishing in the abyss of ‘getting things done’? I, for one, can’t even contemplate why such a welcomed healing process has still not been acted on.

Then, we have the Commission on Flags, Identity and Culture…. Again, no movement since the SHA on an issue which seems to rear its ugly head continually, with as much ferocity and intransigence as ever! This to me, is such an important issue to try to get agreement on and to legislate on the likes of the offensive material being put on bonfires, the size of the bonfires and what is genuinely culture and what people feel are identity. 

If, we, as a collective people, can’t agree and have decisive and capable politicians to discuss and publish a report within an agreed timeframe, what hope and confidence can we have in our politicians? Well, to put it truthfully – None! It seems that politicians can’t decide what the best way forward is, with no compromise, no sense of urgency and quite frankly, to me it seems, would rather point score and bicker amongst themselves rather than to try to find as many common issues as possible.

Then, in the SHA, we come to the areas of real concern in the Amnesty proposals. The Historical Investigations Unit was set up to look at legacy issues with a new pair of eyes. The problem is, this unit isn’t fit for purpose either! I know one victim who, since 1973, when he was left paralyzed, has never had any contact with anyone from the unit. Not really that unusual I hear you say. The problem is that when his solicitor wrote to the unit – now apparently renamed LIB regarding his case – they were ‘investigating’ it already. Makes you wonder whether they merely ‘wait’ until some clued in solicitor requests information about an incident, until they ‘look into it’! 

And how does the Amnesty impact this? Well, in effect – all of those cases become null and void. To date, since 2011, there have only been 26 prosecutions brought under the terms of HIU, these files are sent to the Policing Board initially, where Gerry Kelly convicted IRA member (bomber, escaped prisoner and - but for the grace of God - Attempted murderer) has the chance to see and digest documents about his former comrades!!! 

And what of the Irish Government, have they introduced any new legislation to allow HIU access to their secret files?? The British Government will be erasing the very agreement put in place through legislation that was aimed at tackling legacy issues! One of the main issues of SHA was to uphold the law. In fact, the following were a list of principals agreed upon, and now the Amnesty proposals by the British Government are negating these principals!! I can go so far to remind the British Government the words used when they agreed to the SHA:

None of these proposals amount to any form of amnesty. This Government believes fundamentally in the rule of law and amnesties are not something that we would contemplate. Where evidence exists for a prosecution of any crime in relation to the troubles, the law will take its course.

So can anyone tell me what the hell has changed???

As part of the transition to long-term peace and stability the participants agree that an approach to dealing with the past is necessary which respects the following principles:

 

  • promoting reconciliation
  • upholding the rule of law

Amnesty proposals does away with every attempt at getting justice for victims

  • acknowledging and addressing the suffering of victims and survivors; 

Amnesty proposals have disregarded Every Single victim

facilitating the pursuit of justice and information recovery

Amnesty will take away any chance of justice

is human rights compliant; 

Amnesty proposals completely eradicates citizens human rights
  • is balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable. 
Amnesty only works to the advantage of the British and Irish Governments, No-One else will benefit from these ludicrous set of proposals

Have the Government considered the enormous impact that this will have on victims? When Brandon Lewis states he’s consulting on ‘stakeholders’, who Exactly are those stakeholders? The only people he should be consulting are victims. But it would seem that in the context of Northern Ireland stakeholders are mainly perpetrators of crime and makers of victims.

So it would seem that the British Government have only three main reasons for introducing this legislation that they will be the only (apart from some members of the BA and RUC) benefactors of. As SF would say, (hate to admit that they’re right, but they are in this case!) the proposals would allow the British Government to keep everything behind locked doors. Firstly, Every dirty deal, every lie and every corrupt decision will be forever lost in the annals of time. Contrary however to what SF also say, I’ve yet to meet one member of the security forces who wants an amnesty for anyone much less those who they served with who broke the law. Hardly suggestive of an inherent corrupt force.

Secondly, I would also suggest that the Government have thought about the coming elections, not the elections in Northern Ireland, but the U.K. elections. How many veterans and ex-forces are voters? I’m taking a bet that the proposed amnesty is a voting tool for the Conservatives in the U.K. They will hope that this will encourage veterans to place their X on the Conservative box, and if those voters think that this was brought in for any other reason than that, they’re much more stupid than I ever thought possible.

And thirdly, by ceasing any civil actions and further inquests in the road to getting some form of justice, how many ££££millions will be saved? I find the government's proposals abhorrent on all three of these basis. It would also seem that the vast majority of folk have the same opinion. One thing Is for sure - the British Government have let the mask slip where Northern Ireland and victims are concerned. These proposals should be vehemently opposed by every section of the community. Who’d have thought that the British could have united every party in Northern Ireland after so many years!

Is it the norm for agreements which are made over here, to be Not then adhered to? And to make matters worse, then the fundamental issues agreed and signed off on are then unilaterally disregarded by the British Government in the Amnesty proposals!!

I now have an understanding of how our political system works, or should I rephrase it – doesn’t work. It would seem that here, political figures shouldn’t waste the electorate's time by publishing ‘consultation’ documents, if in effect, they’re just going to do their own thing anyway – even if that ‘own thing’ is never adhered to either! And yet again, it’s the innocents who suffer most!

⏩ Lesley Stock is a former PSNI and RUC Officer currently involved in community work. 

37 comments:

  1. Oh for Christ's sake, here we go again on how frigging fair minded and decent the RUC were. Lesley there were two RUC forces -those that are your mates, and those who murdered and colluded in murder. You speak of people who didn't exist if you were a fenian in West Belfast.

    Not sure your point on Gerry Kelly reading files and you multiple exclamation marks for emphasis? There are also unionists and cops reading files involving their mates that were involved sectarian murders... I presume Kelly isn't considered decent enough for you?

    Funny how former members of the security forces and their friends were the driving force behind lobbying Johnston to excuse security force murderers from accountability. You are either out of touch about the security forces or your making stuff up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lesley,
    it seems to me that you're committed to the path which you now find yourself on. My sense is that the work that you've involved yourself in has benefitted you personally in a significant and felt way, and that continuance with it gives your life significant meaning. My hunch is, it imbues you with purpose too.
    So, it'll probably seem harsh to you that some of us would attempt to disabuse you of your fanciful notions, or naïve ideas about how justice works or has worked, since even before the foundation of the Northern State.
    I’ll proceed nonetheless; I know of one man who upon release of completing his sentence was re-arrested at the gates of Long Kesh and who during his subsequent interrogation further admitted to previously participating in the killing of one of your colleagues. Like thousands of deals made every day amongst the powerful, his confession came to be discarded. He became a beneficiary of a clandestine deal, and unlike others such as John Downey, continues to remain unaccountable.

    Though, you are far from alone in your view of the world you essentially and foremostly, in your water skater approach, remind me of the dump shits in America who believe every utterance from Donald Trump.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Henry Joy

    As well meaning as LS intention might be, I see it as revisionism in her attempts to hold the RUC up to undeserving credit and rewrite their past. She displays the ignorance of the complicit mother who tries to convince an abused child that their abuser is not all bad. Doing so requires a disregard of taking into account the damage caused or validation of the victim's truth.


    The extent of decency within the sectarian RUC was that they may have been decent to each other but not to the Nationalist community. It is outright dishonest of Lesley to disregard thier abuses or portray them to their victims as anything else but an abusive force.

    The RUC were what they were and attempts to rewrite their reputation as something that it was not reveals an underlying motive of Lesley's.








    ReplyDelete
  4. HJ/Christy,

    You two appear to be playing the man not the ball. What are your thoughts on the bulk of what Lesley wrote? What are your thoughts on Amnesty?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve R - I understand that my comments if taken at the most superficial might read that way. However my invitation to you is to pay more attention and to work a little harder when reading my commentary. You've little bother following my analysis when I deconstruct the Republic position. Allow yourself the same open-mindedness when I apply similar evaluations of the Unionist one! Political Unionism has its genesis in what I recently heard elsewhere described as "A Patriotic Revolt". It was and remains a counter-democratic outworking of a colonialist and imperialist past. As an ideology it remains supremacist and toxic, and across the bandwidth though differing somewhat in tone, it remains essentially so. Lesley blindly refuses to acknowledge any of this.
      She expects to find justice within a system which is and has been inherently unjust. How feckin crazy is that?
      She reveals herself in her crass and insensitive justifications of her own and her colleagues behaviour. She uses offensive and defensive throw-away comments such as "Noble Cause Corruption" and doesn't allow for push-back from those who have been victims of exactly that. Come on now lads!
      I understand that my take represents too much "an appalling vista" for Unionism to truthfully contemplate, but look at and contemplate they're eventually going to have to ... may take a couple of generation more, but until they do I suppose I'll just have to expect Lesley-like charades.

      (Your own assessment on amnesty is probably correct. Nothing of substance will happen, at least not until all those who participated are long dead and gone. Even then the narrative will be well distorted and sanitised. Very few can handle the truth such as the events outlined in my previous comment).

      Delete
    2. Steve - going by the chit chat, Lesley has emerged well from these ongoing exchanges. There will never be agreement and it is foolish for us to think that she is ever going to come over to her critics' way of thinking. But again I feel the need to defend the commenters from charges of not playing the ball. Some of it might be caustic or strident, even wrong, but nothing abusive. I much prefer the blunt clash of opposing perspectives than the ersatz politeness that passes for discussion at times. If people are not being downright nasty or hateful, then let the debate proceed. Polemic has its role to play.

      Delete
    3. AM


      I wish you would stop trying to portray fact checking as attempts to win LS over to my thinking. If you knew a different RUC than I encountered then maybe you should back Lesley up. I am prepared to accept that there may have been decent members of the RUC but that is not a reality tgat I knew and most Nationalis/Republicans knew.

      Lesley's journey is more an RUC promotional road trip. Maybe Lesley would do well reflecting on her own downfall in this regard, how come she was dismissed from the RUC for misconduct toward a Loyalist but she would not have been disciplined had she pulled the same shit on a nationalist/Republican? That disparity has evidently not even crossed her mind.

      Delete
    4. Christy - that is a wish you are not going to get. Your "facts" against her "facts" merely tells us that there is no one narrative. As a dispassionate observer of the debate it just seems to me that you want her to agree that she is wrong and you are right. That never happens in these type of discussions, regardless of who is right.
      Nor do I think I need to back Lesley up. Firstly, she has done quite well thus far without my backing and comes across as more measured and less strident than her critics sometimes do. Secondly, I don't share her view of the RUC but am long enough in the tooth to know that people are shaped by their experience and the ideological lens they view the world through. That sort of lens is a serious filter - but it is so for us all.
      The RUC like all institutions was a coat of many colours. The Special Branch, E4A and DMSU were far more aggressive and brutal than other sections of it. Same with the Prison Service - we should focus on the institution.
      I recall during the debates about disband the RUC and asking what it really meant. Was every cop to be banned from joining a new police service or the Gardai in a united Ireland? I felt the most we could hope for was the DMSU, E4A and SB members prohibited form serving in any police force. That clearly never happened.
      Lesley's experience is not yours. The last thing I read from her writing as is a RUC promotional road trip. Shows you how things impact on people in different ways.
      I don't think she was dismissed from the PSNI. I believe she resigned and there is a court case pending in respect of what you refer to.
      Given that the force was never really disbanded there nevertheless seems to exist a significant amount of nationalist support for it. Which might allow us to infer that even within nationalism there was no one attitude to it. The SDLP constituency insofar as it is permissible to generalise had a significantly different perspective on it to that of republicans.
      Institutionally, the RUC deserves all the criticism it gets. As a life long critic of it, I think it has not been made accountable in the slightest. But how it looks as a single image might not correspond with each individual pixel in a close up view.

      As Brandon pointed out, not every body joined it to fight the IRA.

      Delete
    5. HJ,

      "Steve R - I understand that my comments if taken at the most superficial might read that way. However my invitation to you is to pay more attention and to work a little harder when reading my commentary. You've little bother following my analysis when I deconstruct the Republic position. Allow yourself the same open-mindedness when I apply similar evaluations of the Unionist one! "

      ...I'll ignore what seems a little patronizing and refer you to my previous comments were I have seen bad cops first hand. I'm not blind to what some of them were like. As I've said before, I grew up in a Loyalist area, being a cop was a badge of shame there. They kept their heads low but even that didn't stop their houses being shot up around the time of Drumcree. I'd no particular like of them either. Never trust a cop was my Da's favourite saying.

      Delete
  5. Steve

    I singled out an overarching theme of Lesley's writing. In all her writings she makes an emphasis to falsely assert the decency of the RUC. It seems Lesley is attempting to advance her view of historical revisionism and using a variety of themes to do so.






    ReplyDelete
  6. Steve

    I think my view on amnesty might be better made as a separate article.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A separate article is a good idea. If you are going to do one, try and let me know ahead of time when you expect it to come through. It would be good to fit it into the same Saturday slot. We can keep this week's slot clear or the one after depending on how you are with time.

    ReplyDelete
  8. AM

    You have incorrectly assumed that I am trying to change Lesleys mind to suit my thinking. I couldn't give a toss if she maintains her staunch RUC nonsense to her grave. I have previously pointed out that the perspectives of the abused and non-abused of ab abuser might be at odds.

    Lesleys writings have been in the context of meeting Republicans and writing about historical events. The narrative tends to be quite skewed through tactful omissions or sectarian assumptions.

    As for Brandon's assertion that nit all RUC joined to fight the IRA.. that does nothing to negate the sectarian nature of the RUC as a whole who directed thier attention at the general Nationalist population and not narrowly at members of the IRA.

    If there was an abundance of decent RUC then there would be evidence of that, and there is none. And for clarity, we are not talking about how well behaved they were toward each other but how they treated their political opposites in the Nationalist community.

    I will write an article on amnesties by tomorrow night/Wednesday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I very well could have incorrectly assumed. The message transmitted is not always the message received. At the same time, meaning is contested and is not exclusively owned by the dispatcher. The recipient might just as easily have a claim to it.
      There is no doubt there was institutional abuse. That seemed a function of the force. But like the institutional abuse in the Church the majority within it need not have been involved. That does not absolve the institution of culpability.
      John Brewer would give you a very different reading of the RUC make up from the one you offer. While, I don't buy his take on it or on his methodology, it does show that people can produce evidence that challenges our own assumptions. There is not one narrative on the RUC.
      The DMSU was the main point of friction between the republican community and the RUC. What experience did nationalists on the Malone Road or South Down have of the DMSU? Most nationalists voted for the party that endorsed the RUC. There was no one nationalist take on the RUC, and the perspective articulated by you seems to have been a minority one within the broader nationalist community.
      By the time I had got out from jail, nationalists in West Belfast were not being stopped and searched on the street whereas I always was. And if a nationalist was in my company that was when they got the treatment. The RUC in my view was refining its tactical approach for strategic reasons. In fact, nationalists in those parts of Belfast where the UDR set up checkpoints, made a point of availing of the right to have a RUC member present before they assented to the search. For whatever reason, and I was never enamoured to it at the time, nationalists outside West Belfast saw the RUC as much less sectarian than the UDR/RIR.
      I think what is lacking from your take is an acknowledgement that an institution is much more successful in its systemic injustices if it has within its ranks a sufficient body of people who do not participate directly in the abuse. The RUC was not like the Einsatzgruppen, all of whose members were expected to be on board for the actions the body was taking (and even then, not all of them got involved). It worked much better ideologically and strategically when it could pass itself off to many people as a police force extensively engaged in normal policing. If everybody in the force is involved in beating 14 year old youngsters over a radiator in Musgrave street, it just doesn't work as well.

      Lesley, in my view, has written from her perspective and nothing leaped out at me to suggest that it was a whitewash job on the RUC. I think it is to her credit that she has written and engaged with Richard and was willing to learn in the course of doing so.
      I don't think anybody is interested in how they behaved to each other. That is never a barometer of institutional behaviour.
      We'll keep the Saturday slot for the amnesty piece. Friday is time enough to get it to me.

      Delete
    2. AM

      I instinctively thought institutional/systemic what's the difference? and thus absentmindedly adid not respond because it seemed too arduous a task on my phone with my bad eyesight and clumsy fingers. I would not try and persuade a unionist that their dislike of the republican movement might be misplaced if only they knew its different depts. and branches -and like the RUC/DMSU relationship -the vast majority of Republicans will not be directly or indirectly involve with IRA ASUs. I doubt many unionists would care much about the difference. And I have heard from different unionist/security force (including RUC) sources 'We viewed all Catholics as being in league with the IRA'.

      I didnt say anything about a whitewash _I said a revisionism of the RUC's reputation. I did hear that the RUC had changed tact by not harassing ex-prisoners on their release -lest they re-motivate them back into joining the IRA. For me, I wasn't a known 'player' nor did I hang around with known players, yet we were often fucked around on sight and for no real reason because there was never any real attempt to question us about anything.

      I agree with you that Lesley is writing from her perspective and her experience/relationship with other members of the RUC, and that is well and good -but again where's the journey and what impact has meeting republicans had on her long held perspective and assumptions? There is no learning or debunking what Republicans have said to her -they are merely props in her writing -as if to say I have met these people and they seem normal in ordinary clothes but we know their sorted past -it was either self-inflicted or unjustified behaviour from them.

      Delete
    3. The difference between institutional and systemic as I see it is that institutional is a state of being and systemic a state of doing. Abuse employed by the institution is always institutional abuse but not always systemic. It might be very focused, rare, situational and used to achieve a particular goal.
      My reading of your views is not focused on the institutional / systemic but on the institutional / attitudinal.

      An institution is not sectarian or racist because of the attitude of its members. It is sectarian or racist because of its structural function: where it is located within the power matrix in society in defence of what and against whom it perceives a threat. If it was a question of sectarian or racist attitudes, then the problem could be mitigated by the recruitment of Catholics or black people. But neither in the US police nor the North did that make any difference.
      The limits of the "We viewed all Catholics as being in league with the IRA" attitude are pretty stark. Asking them if that included the Catholics in the RUC, the response is unlikely to be the same.
      We used to characterise the RUC as the armed wing of unionism. I came to see that as a propaganda attribute, much like "SS RUC". In my view the RUC had evolved to become the armed wing of British state security policy in the North. The British did not need the RUC to be a group of sectarian thugs - they needed it to be effective in fighting the IRA, which it considered the main threat to the British state.
      I fail to see any substantive difference between a revisionism of the RUC's reputation and whitewashing it.
      They did not change tack that much. I was subject to stop and search and house searches within the first year of release which became more persistent after I got stopped on the Andersonstown Road with Gerry Kelly.
      I could be walking through Ballymurphy much like everybody else but the landrovers never pulled up beside everybody else. Even in Black taxis, I was taken out and searched and not the other passengers. So, it was very focused. Sometimes they were aggressive and at other times polite, even apologetic. I don't remember ever being subjected to sectarian abuse by them: the message might have been implicit and sometimes explicit - I was not being stopped because I was a nationalist or a Catholic.
      Lesley did not set out on a journey to convert Richard or be converted by him. Her journey was from someone who ostracised people like us to sitting down and talking to us, trying to work out what made us tick, She made no claim to be on a journey of radical change, just a journey. That she might not have reached the destination you think she should have is because she never set out on it.
      What I see from her writing is a growing awareness of what people like Richard endured and the reasons for it. She might well say she doesn't think it worthwhile and hold to her common sense view of the RUC vis a vis the IRA. She is free to hold those views and not be viewed as fundamentally dishonest for doing so. That is how ideology works. The institutional ideology is powerful. Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Sherman sort of tells us that people do believe such things. It seems weird from our perspective that our detractors cannot grasp what we regard as the reality of their own sordid background, and they feel the same about us.
      For what it is worth, Lesley got the same type of criticism from unionist quarters - how could she sit down with Richard or even write for TPQ.
      It's the way of the world, unfortunately. When you are on the floor you can only look up and when you are on the ceiling you can only look down. Each thinks the way they see the world is so natural.

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  9. AM

    Thanks for clarifying the distinction between institutional/systemic and as rational as that is I would say the RUC were dogged with both in equal measure. As for your experience post-release it doesn't surprise me I was only confirming that I had heard what you had previously referred to about a change of tact by the RUC. (tack/tact -change course /diplomacy in dealing with someone?)


    And yes, the weight either of us put on the term of 'personal journey' is different -I have pretty much spelt out my understanding on that. I have never had an issue with LS sticking to her guns I just figure she should own it and be a bit more real. No doubt LS has stepped out of her comfort zone a little, however, I am not as impressed that talking to RO'R is that much in the way of progress. As welcome as it might be it is crumbs almost 30 years after the 1994 ceasefire -more to the point it suggests serious bitter entrenchment.

    How you describe LS journey are things that I have done because it was in my nature to do them -I have engaged with former members of the security forces, hard-line loyalists and you know my views on the recent passing of former diplock judge, Lord Kerr. In fact I have met and shaken hands with my own nemesis formerly Corporal Blacklock of the Para regiment. I don't really see it as that big of a deal which is probably why I am not so enamored about LS coming down of some sort of righteous height (or ceiling) to talk to lesser people.

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    1. It depended on who you got - one of them spit on Danny Muff's child in his arms one day after referring to it as a monkey. I was standing in Oakman Street once on a parole and they were calling women Fenian bastards and whores while the women were telling them to go back to the Shankill. Another time I was walking children to school and the female cop said to me she was sorry that I had to be searched in front of them. The male cop gave a light touch rub down rather than the vigorous search I was used to. Generally, the attitude was one of aggression.
      I read Lesley differently - didn't see in it any of the look down attitude and have never once experienced it in my conversations with her despite the very obvious differences we would have.
      It is probably easier for you in that it is less novel. You have met your former enemies. I have too so it is pretty much run of the mill to us. I don't know if you ever read the piece on the boozy evening in Edinburgh I spent with a former SAS colonel. I found him engaging. I think these type of things are easily possible if we are willing to come out of the trenches. A crucial thing in exchanges of these types if they are to be authentic is never to go native. I have watched situations where that has happened and it simply has that ersatz look and feel to it.

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    2. AM

      I have experienced or am aware of the same sort of behaviour from the RUC as you list, including making obscene and offensive insults to young children under 10 years of age while grieving the loss of a parent. In fact I consider the RUCs ongoing ingrained bitterness and hatred as a inhibiting factor as to why there might be so few former members that are real -and why it has taken someone like LS 30 years to get around to nothing more than some civility. Decency is not an inherent quality among the RUC -especially if to this day its seems LS is taking flak -for what -she met with a former ex-prisoner??

      Whereas, are there any hardcore Republicans who have not some story to tell about having a friendly encounter with their former foes? And I recall your encounter with the SAS guy; you might remember I furtively disclosed that I was given a signed copy of one of Kitson's books. No connection to that, a long time good friend of mine is a former soldier who was honourably discharged from the army after sustaining a serious injury in an IRA attack. He in many ways has made a greater journey than I ever could claim to have done.

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    3. I don't know if those who criticised Lesley were from an RUC background but think not: more unionist.
      I met Michael Paterson once in the BBC. He had lost his arms during a rocket attack while serving with the RUC. To say I was moved would be an understatement. . I wrote about it back in 2008.

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    4. AM

      I assumed RUC and their relatives because that seems to be the group that she has greatest influence over her writing -and presumably their lack of approval that she had to overcome to meet with RO'R.

      Yeah, that was a good piece on MP. I have to say I often admire the attitude of the Brit veteran amputees who take on challenges like walking with the wounded -some have done things with no limbs that I can't imagine myself being able to do with mine intact.

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    5. I am assuming too - I don't actually think she knows the people - and they exude a political unionism. I have noticed others not of a unionist persuasion but they are not criticising her but welcoming the writing.
      Michael Paterson does a great job in helping people get over their trauma and not be overcome by it. Like yourself, I don't think I could do it.

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  10. See President Mickey D isn't going to attend political Unionism's centenary knees up!
    Proper order too Mickey D.

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  11. I'm enjoying these exchanges, and I'm pleased that Lesley's writing has inspired such debate.

    I would urge all commenters on the RUC to read Knights in Armour by (former RUC officer) Samuel Thomson.

    Numerous themes that emerge in these discussions come up; the hardline loyalist RUC officer, the day-to-day drudgery of policing, riots, and the omnipotent threat of death at the hands of the IRA/INLA.

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    1. Brandon - perhaps you might review that for the blog, even ask our mutual drinking buddy if it is something they might consider.

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  12. @ Christy Walsh

    "In fact I have met and shaken hands with my own nemesis formerly Corporal Blacklock of the Para regiment."

    I'm intrigued by this - something you would expand on?

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  13. @ AM - I will certainly ask her.

    I haven't ever tried to review anything. I think it's quite a particular skill, and one that I'm not sure I have. Christopher Owens has it in abundance.

    I've never been able to find the review that Colin "Mad" Mitchell's son did that I mentioned to you in Dublin. It was a brilliant piece of work, all the more so for being written by the son of that man.

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    1. Brandon - there is no one way to do a review. Before I did my first, I thought it would be a difficult task but it very soon falls into place. A good writer such as yourself would have no difficulty reviewing. Like a good student faced with exams - once they know the drill it is plain sailing. It would be great if you could ask her. A first outing for her on the blog would be most welcome.

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  14. @ Christy (and I hope this doesn't break TPQ protocol, AM?)

    Lesley is on holiday and can't sign off on comments, but asked if I'd leave the following:

    I’m on holiday and mum fell last night and ended up in hospital but would you be so kind as to state a FACT to Christy as I haven’t my laptop with me and seem to only be able to comment while on that …..
    Fact - I was NOT dismissed nor resigned, I got a medical pension based on broken back and ptsd and have a certificate of 28 exemplary years service !!!
    Fact - I’m pissed off with continuously being called a fkg liar OR having to justify my role in the police

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  15. Lesley

    My apologies for my error in believing that you had been permanently dismissed. Given the nature of the charges against you I had assumed that was why you were no longer a cop.

    My doubts about some of what you claim is borne from the well known fact that members of the security forces and their supporters have been the driving force behind the proposed amnesty. Apart from wanting to stop potential prosecutions for murder, the security forces have been the biggest obstacle to the release of information on countless murders in which they are suspected of involvement in or having colluded with the actual killers.

    Brandon

    You have just discredited yourself and I now know that your false assertion to there being an abundance of decent RUC officers during the Conflict was nothing more than your baseless attempt to try and support your friend.



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    1. I don't know how Brandon has discredited himself when he has merely posted what Lesley asked him to. I do it frequently enough on request when people are not able for some reason to get their comment through.

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    2. AM

      I challenged him when he made his baseless assertion that "had honourable, decent and evenhanded officers within its ranks, in abundance."


      It is now evident that he has a closer relationship with Lesley than I was aware. After jumping in in defence of his friend he couldn't back up his false claim when challenged to do. Nor could he respond to being challenged on the predominant sectarian make up and behaviour of the RUC which he had attempted to play down. I see his fallacies as even less credible in light of the close relationship.

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    3. It is opinion as to whether his assertion is baseless or not. He can certainly make an arguable case.
      If I am not mistaken, I introduced him to Lesley as he was writing pieces about Holy Cross and wanted her take. He discovered her through TPQ. That hardly makes him a close friend to the extent that he is going to warp his perspective. He seems much closer to republicans in terms of his personal friendships. That does not in the slightest invalidate his perspective on Holy Cross. He is also someone who has a window on the RUC community and sees something different than you do. That is all allowable in a pluralist environment (which I hope is where TPQ sits) where different takes and views can coincide, even clash.

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  16. @ Christy

    Using your analysis, I'm also discredited when it comes to writing about the IRA. Yesterday, for example, I spoke to two former hunger-strikers. I've drank with dozens of IRA men over the years, and INLA, most likely in pubs you're familiar with. As it happens, you should be suspicious of anything I write about Sinn Fein, given that I'm related to a very prominent elected member. I'm also related to a republican who shot an RUC man dead, and one of the three former RUC officers that I've met, in something of an irony, had trained him when he was inducted into the force.

    Lesley doesn't need my help in getting her point across, except
    in a technical manner, like now.

    I've met Lesley; I like her. I hope to meet her again. I enjoy her writing. But my thoughts about the RUC, which I think are fairly uncontroversial and nuanced, had been formed long before I met her.

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  17. @ Christy

    From Lesley:

    Christy Again, your assumptions only make you look like a bitter person- only too willing to believe the word of a complete liar like Bryson! I’ll give you some other FACTS shall I? I was never arrested, interviewed or formally charged. The PPS have submitted statements which quite frankly I can’t WAIT for court for these contain so many lies, inaccuracies and fit ups that I’ll be wiping the floor with them! Again, your willingness to believe that I was a bent copper only serves to make you look foolish. Every comment you’ve made in fact on this thread is completely contradictory to the answers given by anyone I spoke to, including ex service and currently serving police officer. It has become clear to me that you don’t actually read, you read between the lines, you make many assumptions but don’t take the time to READ the words written, to digest, to actually talk. That’s your issue, not mine. As AM says, Brandon in no way has discredited himself, that my friend is what you did….

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