Below is a short post on the back of a conversation on Twitter between myself, @EdSimpsonNI and @yeronlyman. Sometimes the 140 characters are just not enough. It began with a tweet regarding an interview I gave to the North Belfast News (I have included the link to the piece which was not included in the original tweet – sorry gents!):
#mcgurks families hit out at Baggott via @nbnkieran @newbelfast. Say NO! to a Police State 😉
I am being deliberately flippant with the title of the post, Ed 😉
Constitutional politics and continuing peace has my complete support. Nevertheless, I also believe that we should have faith in a “reformed” police service’s ability to recognize and learn from the mistakes of the past. That faith has obviously taken a big knock with the present Chief Constable’s defence of the indefensible regarding the McGurk’s Bar Massacre. It is obvious to anybody who reads our research that we continue to be badly let down by the authorities be they the RUC, Police Ombudsman or Mr. Baggott. This has been emphasized by recent independent reports by/for the Committee for the Administration of Justice, Department of Justice and the Criminal Justice Inspection.
Few rational people stand by the original RUC investigation into McGurk’s. Whether the police investigation was flawed in this instance alone or representative of an institutionalized sectarianism is moot and for a much longer post. The present Chief Constable, though, has denied there was “investigative bias” in their mismanagement of the McGurk’s case – the central finding of the statutory body that we have to hold the police past and present to book. This is despite the fact that the overwhelming evidence including a witness who saw the bomb being planted, witness statements by the survivors, forensics and an admission of guilt by the perpetrators themselves pointed to the fact that the victims were innocent. We have proved that it was the RUC who disseminated the original black propaganda that became the basis of their so-called investigation. It was they who injected the bomb-in-transit lie into the intelligence stream and into the public consciousness. We had to find this evidence ourselves.
The office of the Police Ombudsman is a far from perfect beast and, indeed, we have well-publicized concerns too regarding their published report. Nevertheless, we have greater concerns that the present Chief Constable stands by the original RUC investigation. I have a fear, having met him and knowing that there were salient pieces of archive evidence of which he was not aware, that he is seeking counsel from ex-RUC who serve in our present police force and who are suffering from residual corporate memory (at its most benign). I fear he has chosen to go against a ruling by the statutory body we have as a safeguard against police as he was ill-informed and, now, cannot lose face even though we engaged with him and gave him the opportunity to attend to his grave mistake. His garbled press releases in the wake of the published Police Ombudsman report in February of this year attest to his lack of preparedness and consideration. He has since compounded his mistake.
Now we have been forced to begin proceedings for a judicial review to test whether he is safe to consider himself final arbiter of complaints against the police – past or present. If we do not hold him accountable at this juncture, do we as a society allow the police to have primacy again? That would be one step back towards a Police State. Members of my community suffered under Northern Ireland’s Police State and would be fearful of its return in any form. We all should have faith in our Police Service and believe that they serve the whole community. That is why the majority supported the Good Friday Agreement and looked forward to a shared future.
We sat in the Policing Board meeting last Thursday (1st September) and watched as members lined up to tell the Chief Constable how there has been a severe lowering in confidence regarding his policing of the marching season. He seemed to be in a further state of denial about this very real lowering of confidence and a communal questioning of police primacy.
I left wondering whether the Chief Constable has not only knocked my belief in the reformed Police Service’s ability to recognize mistakes in the past but also the confidence of a whole swathe of the population. Whether he can recover this may be tested by our campaigners in court. As it stands, there is a real danger that he and his team will dismantle any work that the PSNI has done over the last decade.
Disclaimer: These are my personal views and may not reflect the opinions of our families or supporters.