The revelation in today’s Irish News regarding the inability of the so-called Policing Board to function further confirms the ongoing Republican analysis that British Policing is not only unaccountable but also irreformable in the context of occupation.
The Policing Board, signed up to initially by political unionism accompanied by the SDLP and subsequently Sinn Féin, was a mechanism utilised by the British Government in order to maintain the façade that their frontline force was in some way accountable.
While Republicans rightly saw through this and rejected any involvement in these Crown Force structures, others have used them to sell their complicity to their base. This was despite the fact that the PSNI publicly confirmed that they were directed by MI5 via RIPA, with one Assistant Chief Constable stating “MI5 and the PSNI are one and the same.”
The toothless nature of the Policing Board was also highlighted when plastic bullets continued to be stockpiled, with objections from nationalist Board members disregarded. Also when the Special Reconnaissance Regiment of the British Army was deployed in Occupied Ireland, the then Chief Constable reminded the Policing Board that their “powers” did not extend to overseeing his “operational command.”
Now that the Policing Board has been scrapped, it further demonstrates the tactical cul-de-sac Sinn Féin find themselves in. Having shed all principle in return for an internal Six County settlement now thrown on the scrapheap, they then proclaimed the PSNI to be “the only show in town”. They told us all that the PSNI should be trusted because they were there to “put manners on” them via the very same Policing Board.
None of these revelations regarding the demise of the Policing Board should distract from what this body endorsed during its tenure. Murder, the recruitment of children and vulnerable adults as informers, the reliance on supergrasses, the withholding of information regarding Collusion and State murder of civilians and Republican Volunteers, the home invasions, the use of social media to target activists, the abuse of children and harassment of adults via stop and search legislation are just some of the ongoing human rights abuses perpetrated by PSNI militiamen and women.
The Policing Board also overseen the multi-million-pound payoff of RUC personnel, followed by their subsequent re-hiring within the PSNI. This included Special Branch handlers that directed Loyalist death squads to target members of the Republican Community.
Sinn Féin and others put forward these “accountability measures” such as the now-defunct Policing Board in order to justify their support for a British Crown Force and State Agency. Using their own rationale, their continuing support for such agencies in the absence of those very same “accountability measures” means they have negated any argument for their continuing endorsement of corrupt British Policing in Ireland.
Dee Fennell is a Saoradh National Executive Member and community activist based in North Belfast.