The Royal Ulster Constabulary, policemen by day, gunmen by night, was formed in the summer of 1922 from the shambolic remains of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the United Kingdom’s colonial police force in Ireland. Like its hated predecessor, the RUC was the local enforcement arm of the UK’s imperial policies, a gendarmerie protecting London’s latterly diminished colony in the north-east of the island. Almost exclusively staffed by members of the British separatist or unionist community in the Six Counties, the force inevitably reflected the worse aspects of ideological unionism: supremacism, racism and sectarianism.
Beginning with murder and pogrom, the glorified militia accumulated an eighty year record of oppression unparalleled in democratic Europe. The end for the organisation came with the Irish-British peace process of the 1990s and early 2000s as London negotiated away its existence. Disbanded in disgrace, despite attempts by the UK establishment to gloss over its crimes, its replacement in 2001 was the supposedly cross-community Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), another paramilitary formation. Yet the bloody ghosts of the past refuse to lie easy in their premature graves as some sort of cold justice seeks out the uniformed-criminals of the old RUC.
The Journal reports on the findings of a new investigation into the death of US citizen John Hemsworth, a thirty-eight year old Belfast resident who was fatally injured by rampaging RUC officers in the summer of 1997, dying several months later:
“THE POLICE SERVICE of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has expressed regret after a report found a man assaulted by officers later died from his injuries.
American citizen John Hemsworth lived in Belfast with his wife and daughter until his death in 1998.
On Sunday, 6 July 1997, he went to St Gall’s GAA club for the evening. At around 1.45am, John was attacked by members of the RUC as he made his way home on foot.
It is believed that they immediately set upon him with their batons and, the inquest found, kicked him as he lay on the ground.
John managed to get home and then onto the Royal Victoria Hospital where he was treated for a broken jaw, neck injuries and severe bruising to his body.
On 1 January 1998 John passed away from a major blood clot to the brain.
On May 2011 an inquest established that John had died as a result of the attack by the RUC. However, none of the RUC officers present in Malcolmson Street where the attack occurred could recall anyone being assaulted by the RUC.
Most of the officers have retired from policing, but others remain within the PSNI.
A statement from PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said they accept the findings.”
In fact some sixteen RUC men observed or took part in the unprovoked assault on John Hemsworth, some of whom still hold senior positions within the PSNI. The officers denied any knowledge of the event despite all evidence to the contrary. In 2013 the European Court of Human Rights ordered the British government to pay compensation to the victim’s family, condemning the UK authorities haphazard inquest into his death. Britain, of course, is now seeking to leave the European Convention on Human Rights in large part because of historical cases involving the murderous activities of its military and paramilitary forces in Ireland during the Long War of 1966-2005.