Current Affairs Politics

Political Policing

Journalist and author Ed Moloney has an important piece on his blog looking at Sinn Féin’s seeming indifference to the Boston Tapes controversy, the PSNI-driven subpoena over the death of Jean McConville and the questionable work of that force’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

“There is a poignant letter in today’s Irish Times from a Fr Joseph McCullough about the way his 17 year-old brother’s 1972 killing in Belfast has been treated by the  authorities down through the years, from the days when the RUC controlled policing through to the modern PSNI and Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

He writes: “Like most, if not all, murders of this kind, it remains unresolved. My brother’s killing was never investigated, and requests from my family for relevant reports and information have drawn a complete blank from the RUC/PSNI. They informed my family that no paper work or forensic reports in relation to Patrick’s murder exist. They were apparently destroyed in a police station fire!”

It is what he wrote next that struck me hardest, given the lengths to which the PSNI and the HET have gone recently – after a near 40 year gap, mind you – to investigate the killing of Jean McConville, an inquiry which has seen the HET employ the full powers of the US judicial system, 3,000 miles away from PSNI headquarters in East Belfast, to obtain alleged evidence in the case. Contrast the subpoenas served on Boston College and the hounding of myself and researcher Anthony McIntyre that will likely follow if they succeed with Fr McCullough’s experience at the hands of the exact same people:

“A number of years ago I raised these concerns with the chief constable of the RUC/PSNI and the Historical Enquiries Team. I can only describe its response as abysmal.”

The other striking thing about the killing of his brother Patrick McCullough is that it happened in the same year that Jean McConville was disappeared by the IRA, in 1972, although a half a year earlier. Patrick McCullough’s killing has actually gone unsolved longer than Jean McConville’s”

Moloney’s piece includes pointed criticism of Sinn Féin’s poor record in addressing the deficiencies of the PSNI, a paramilitary police force that continues to be influenced by a hard-core of ex-RUC officers and their biased policing culture.

“If I was in the Provo leadership there are two other aspects of the Boston College subpoenas that I would be much more worried about and which I would be channeling my energies to counteract, if I were them.

The first is the point made by Fr. McCullough about the RUC’s core sectarianism and the implication that the HET is incapable and probably unwilling to address this fundamental reason for political instability and violence in Northern Ireland. The HET is an integral part of the PSNI and Sinn Fein signed up to the PSNI, promising to support and defend it in the new dispensation. This means SF supporting a truth recovery process which implicitly accepts the state’s version of what happened, and rejects theirs, and which seems mentally ill-equipped and/or unwilling to deal with the state’s role in all the killing in the way it should be.

The HET also seems hell bent on bringing as many people as it can before the courts for events that happened before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and by so doing breach an understanding that pinned the peace process, that a line would be drawn under the past. Will Sinn Fein back Fr McCullough’s call for a public inquiry into the failings of the RUC? We’ll see, but in the meantime they prefer to go for me and Mackers.

The second has to do with why Patrick’s McCullough’s killing remains un-investigated and unsolved while extraordinary resources are being poured into probing Jean McConville’s death. People will say, well that’s because it was such a sad case, a widowed mother of ten thrown into an anonymous hole in the ground. It deserves such treatment. That may be true but Patrick McCullough’s killing was just as sad to his family and Jean McConville was not the only person ‘disappeared’ by the IRA.

If the truth be told, and as everyone knows, the feature of the Jean McConville killing that really sets it apart is the alleged role played by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.”

The failure to create an unarmed and non-paramilitary civilian police service in the North of Ireland, drawn proportionally from and reflecting both national communities, is one of the greatest indictments of the Peace Process and it will remain a source of continued instability and conflict. The Boston Tapes controversy is just one more symptom of that failure.

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