By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)
Tomorrow Sir Hugh Orde meets the Policing Board for the first time since July.
It will be interesting to hear whether, or if, he is able to explain the complete failure of the PSNI to deal with the loyalist violence that has disfigured the summer and the serious damage the manner of its failure has done to the service’s credibility.
You could say ‘the customary loyalist violence’, for indeed it’s what happens every summer and has been happening for more than a century.
It’s more though than the customary violence that is directed annually against Catholics - the more isolated, random and vulnerable the better. Less risky you see: easier to escape and no chance of retaliation.
No, it’s more than that.
Loyalists have been continuing the trend of the last decade by killing each other. This summer the UVF has decided to wipe out the LVF in the forlorn belief that if they can do that it will solve something on loyalist Fantasy Island.
The PSNI response to UVF murders has been wholly inadequate.
Let’s hope Orde doesn’t trot out the couple of dozen arrests and pathetically small number of house searches. It doesn’t matter because they’re all released again through the revolving doors they have set into barracks for loyalist suspects.
The point is that no-one has been charged with any of the murders or any weapons recovered.
Far worse is the impression the PSNI and NIO give that they are content to let the UVF get on with it. That impression is reinforced by the public collusion between the police and UVF hoodlums during the unforgivable scenes in Garnerville when the UVF expelled six families.
How will the chief constable explain the PSNI’s failure to deal with UDA gangs attacking Catholic homes in north Antrim?
What will he do - do, not say - about the lamentable performance of his deputy Paul Leighton who succeeded in scuppering beleaguered Catholics’ confidence in police action against sectarian attacks?
His U-turn was too little, too late and with no apology. Does Leighton realise the damage he has done? Does he know he’ll have to go?
As for the NIO, well what can you expect? The proconsul and his district commissioners were on their hols. The man responsible for security, as well as five other things before breakfast, reappeared with a tan - though not as smooth as our proconsul’s - and announced: “We are going to crack down on the violence. We are determined that these attacks will not be a way of life.”
How fatuous can you be?
Listen mate, they were a way of life decades before you were brandishing suggestively shaped vegetables on Esther Rantzen’s show. How are you going to ‘crack down’ on the day or so a week you’re here? You don’t have any operational control over the police or army, so less hot air please.
Another headline from the same hero. ‘Everything being done to end violence’. Really? How about asking the proconsul when he returns from his hols to announce the UVF and UDA ceasefires are null and void?
How about returning some of the main actors to jail on the basis of the intelligence the PSNI say they have that they are engaged in murder and other acts of violence?
He won’t, because - here’s another NIO statement - “NIO officials continue to be in close contact with community leaders in loyalism to try to bring this ongoing violence to an end.”
So civil servants are talking to the people who are orchestrating the violence to tell them to stop orchestrating it. How much money will they ask from the NIO to help them stop it?
Three million was the last UDA request, wasn’t it?
How then can there be a crack-down when the NIO persists in believing these guys will give up drug dealing and racketeering and go into politics for no money and one per cent of the vote? Talk about mixed messages.
So the PSNI in Garnerville were only doing what the NIO does, having a long, meaningful chat to the men who are carrying out the violence.
If they’d arrested them they’d only have to release them as innocent community leaders.
Ever get the feeling there’s nobody in charge?