By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)
Among all the other criminal offences reported last week, two received substantial publicity - a rape in Woodvale Park and on a much more mundane level the vandalised parking meters in the Sandy Row no-go area for traffic wardens.
You can bet your life that if either or both of these offences were reported in north or west Belfast or in Derry the meedja would have sought out some ‘hapless’ Sinn Féin councillor, not to hear condemnation of the crimes but to ask why Sinn Féin doesn’t support the police and if Sinn Féin would tell anyone who knew anything about the events to give their information to the police.
In this line of questioning the north’s unionist-dominated meedja unquestioningly follow the unionist line and avoid the real issue.
Unionists like to claim, as they have always claimed, that they are the ‘law-abiding community’, as if nationalists are a kind of
sub-species who enjoy criminality and endorse lawlessness.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact northern nationalists have always wanted but never enjoyed, proper policing.
The quest for properly accountable policing is the real issue, not whether you can find someone in SF to support the PSNI.
The simple fact is that if all elected Sinn Féin members lined up at Stormont and chorused their support for the PSNI and urged all their constituents to tell the police anything they knew about crimes it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference.
It’s taken for granted that all unionists support the police. Does that mean all their constituents report what they know to the police? Of course not.
Are unionists any more law-abiding than nationalists? Of course not. Did the people of Sandy Row provide evidence to the police about who sliced off the parking meter coin-holders in their district? Not a chance.
Furthermore, we had a unionist councillor trying to tell us that it hadn’t happened, that the DoE had removed the meters at the request of local traders.
Did he call on his constituents to pass information to the police?
Not a bit of it. Was he asked? Natatall.
Are we really supposed to believe that crime in nationalist areas would plummet if SF announced their support for the police?
Is there anyone who does not realise that this demand, dutifully put to SF by the meedja on every possible occasion, is the DUP’s demand, a demand concocted simply and solely to postpone the evil day when they have to share power with SF?
For some reason no-one puts to the DUP this question - Is it their policy to share power with nationalists and if not, when will it become so?
Instead, the DUP is allowed to hide behind the false pretext of demanding support for policing, which is nothing other than the traditional unionist demand since Norn Iron was invented.
Sinn Féin have made a mess of their response to this demand.
Their demand is that justice and policing be devolved. They need to explain why this must be so.
All they’ve said is that they want an end to political policing. What they need to spell out repeatedly is the following.
Policing in the north was created by and for unionists. Policing always belonged to unionists because they believed the very existence of their northern state depended on a police force created to defend it.
Nationalists knew that the RUC would treat any nationalist protest like an insurrection and would attack nationalist communities at the drop of a hat as they did on many occasions with the help of the B Specials and later the RUC Reserve. OK. That’s over.
Now, in order to ensure all that can never happen again, nationalists have to run a ministry in the north which is in charge of policing and justice. That’s why Ian Og will not be the minister for police and justice. It’s quite elementary.
If nationalists are to share in running the northern state, they have to participate in running the police so that they are seen to be their police and not just a re-structured unionist police.
It’s an essential condition and SF are quite right to make it a deal-breaker.