A few bad apples don’t make a bad barrel

By Jim Gibney (for the Irish News)

Almost 70 active members of a paramilitary organisation have been convicted of criminal offences, including assault, carrying offensive weapons, being drunk while in charge of a loaded weapon, being drunk in a public place and deception.

Since March 2004 these people have been before the courts and found guilty of breaking the law.

It is also common knowledge that this paramilitary organisation continues to gather intelligence and procure a range of lethal weapons.

You are probably wondering how you missed this story. It is all in the name.

The organisation is not the IRA. It is the PSNI. The PSNI did not volunteer this information.

Under the Freedom of Information Act they are compelled to put such facts into the public domain.

A few newspapers reported the PSNI story. It did not lift as a newsworthy item beyond this.

Can you imagine the reaction from the British and Irish governments, other political parties, the International Monitoring Commission (IMC), the media, had there been even a small number of IRA personnel or former IRA activists before the courts on similar charges and convicted?

Amid allegations of widespread criminality the forthcoming plans to recall the assembly would have been put on hold.

The two governments would have financially punished Sinn Fein.

The media would have camped outside Sinn Fein’s offices to interrogate Gerry Adams.

John ‘IMC’ Balderdash would have been swaggering about with a media posse hard on his heels warning of the dire consequences for democracy and the peace process because of these convictions.

The unionist parties would have walked out of talks demanding the IRA disband, end their criminality and register as a charity organisation.

Apart from the response from the PSNI’s press office, essentially claiming a ‘few bad apples and nothing to do with them’, how have the custodians of moral and political rectitude reacted to the news that 70 PSNI officers were before the courts charged and convicted of criminal offences?

Are the British and Irish governments to meet in emergency session to discuss the ‘crisis’ provoked by this admission? No.

Has the IMC asked for an urgent meeting with the two governments to present a detailed report to them on the implications of this behaviour? No.

Has the Police Authority sent for Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde to give an account for this high level of criminality inside the PSNI? No.

Have the SDLP or the unionist parties tabled motions to the authority seeking explanations for this misconduct? No.

Do we know whether these police officers are still in the PSNI after their convictions? No, we do not.

Then again we do not know where or who the RUC personnel are who tortured people under interrogation. Nor do we know where or who the RUC personnel are who organised the loyalist murder gangs which killed hundreds of Catholics during the conflict.

A few months ago a member of the Free Presbyterian Church was before the courts accused of sexual abuse. Is the leader of the Free Presbyterian Church asked to explain? No. Should he be? No.

Members of the UUP have been before the courts charged with electoral and financial fraud.

Is the UUP leadership asked to explain? No. Should they be? No.

An unsuccessful SDLP candidate was charged with running a brothel.

Is the leadership of the SDLP asked to explain? No. Should they be? No.

Ray Burke a former minister for foreign affairs in the Irish government was jailed for six months on corruption charges. Is Bertie Ahern responsible? No.

Why then are Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein expected to account for the actions of every former republican activist?

Why is Sinn Fein put in the dock every time someone in the Assets Recovery Agency or the Garda dreams up a fanciful plot involving the IRA buying half of Manchester or trying to take over the oil smuggling business?

Easy answer - Sinn Fein’s opponents are involved in a nasty black propaganda campaign against the party.

They are desperately trying to limit Sinn Fein’s advance. They hope their slurs against republicans will affect Sinn Fein’s electoral popularity, north and south.

Criminalisation was tried and failed during the conflict. It will fail again in this era of peace.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News