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Monday 29 January 2007

Why it suits Sinn Fein to do policing deal now

In a rare moment of proclaiming the unvarnished truth, last week Gerry Adams explained to a thousand or so republicans in Londonderry that Sinn Fein's intention in signing up to policing was "about putting manners on the police".

It is difficult for terrorists, criminals and subversives to get their way when pesky policemen try to subject them to the rule of law, so "putting manners" on the police is exactly what Adams has been intent on throughout his long and grim career, through the use at various times of intimidation, propaganda and political blackmail.

And he hasn't finished yet. It suits Sinn Fein to do a deal over policing now: it would much strengthen its hand in the forthcoming General Election in the Republic to be seen as on the side of law and order and, by then, even part of a devolved government in Northern Ireland. So henceforward, the emphasis will be on weakening the police from within.

It was the raw courage of the RUC and the professionalism of its Special Branch – supported by the rest of the security forces – that brought the IRA to its knees and ready to sue for peace by the end of 1980s.

During its struggle against terrorism, the RUC had 273 officers murdered and thousands injured and mutilated by the IRA. Adams was in charge of Sinn Fein when the IRA killed their last policemen: Constables Graham and Johnston were shot in June 1997 because the IRA thought (correctly) that their deaths would strengthen Adams's negotiating hand with the new prime minister, Tony Blair.

With murder no longer an option after the Good Friday Agreement the following year, republicans sought the destruction of the police as a quid pro quo for giving up violence. They also conducted a brilliant propaganda campaign: who now remembers that the reason why there were so few Catholics in the RUC was that they were IRA targets of preference: to join meant death at worst and, at best, exile from the nationalist community?

The Patten report that replaced the RUC with the Police Service of Northern Ireland – a force regulated and supervised to within an inch of its life — did not go far enough for Sinn Fein, which refused to join the police board and bullied and traduced those who did. Year after year, republicans dangled in front of Blair the prize of their participation in policing and extracted concession after concession that would weaken the rule of law in Northern Ireland. As the prize came within Blair's reach, the Assets Recovery Agency was sacrificed to placate Army Council member Thomas "Slab" Murphy.

Last week's report from the Police Ombudsman making serious allegations about collusion between some members of the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries has been most timely for republicans.

The British establishment has done nothing to put those findings in context, to point out such simple facts as that the RUC killed only fifty (mostly in gun battles), while they lost 303 to terrorists; that they saved innumerable lives through the use of loyalist and republican informers, while having to make up the rules while they went along; and that while bad things happened and deserve investigation, the RUC as a whole was a heroic institution that richly deserved its George Cross.

Spokesmen could have added that despite what republicans allege, most loyalist killings were carried out by loyalists without any police collusion of any kind.

We are left with unchallenged interpretation by Adams, who is writing out of history the fact that the IRA murdered almost 2,000. Now the state are the terrorists.

"I told Mr Blair," said Adams to his conference, "that the British state has to open up this can of worms and face up to its responsibilities. It has to acknowledge the great hurt it has inflicted on almost a thousand citizens who were killed, and their families who have suffered directly, and all the thousands of others who had their rights undermined and subverted by a policy, which encouraged paramilitarism and violence and which in turn corrupted the Protestant working class community."

Gerry Adams's Ministry of Truth is formidable. When listening to what will be nauseating interviews over the next few days, just remember Orwell and "blackwhite", a word that applied to an opponent "means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts".

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards