EDITORIAL: Why Unionism and Loyalism must withdraw all support for the PSNI in defence of the rule of law
By Jamie Bryson
The DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster has finally arrived at the realisation that the Chief Constable’s position is “untenable”. She has accordingly called for his resignation. The Chief Constable has refused.
The DUP are now bound by their own logic; policing is so discredited, so biased and so politically motivated that the Chief Constable’s position is untenable. How then can the DUP, or any other unionist/loyalist for that matter, continue to support the PSNI or worse still prop up the policing apparatus by continuing to sit on the Policing Board?
There are many of us within unionism and loyalism who have been calling out the inherent bias within policing for well over a decade. It is welcome, although belated, that political unionism is finally accepting the reality that the PSNI are entirely biased against the unionist/loyalist community and to be frank, treat our communities like an underclass.
The Storey funeral is but one example, it is nevertheless a striking one when viewed in comparison to how the PSNI treat unionist communities. When it came to Rangers fans gathering to celebrate the club’s 55th title, the PSNI- detectives no less- arrived at the doors of a number of loyalists within five days. When it came to interviewing republican suspects for the flagrant breaches of the law at the Storey funeral, it took the PSNI five months to even begin the process of ‘negotiating’ voluntary interviews.
We have also seen over a decade of harassment, criminalisation and draconian policing directed towards the bands and Orange community. Notably during the flag protest when it was found by the Supreme Court that the PSNI facilitated parades, there was no softly softly approach with alleged participants, much less was there any notion that the PPS would consider, let alone treat as a determining factor, the PSNI’s encouragement of the parades to take a particular route and facilitation of same. Hundreds of loyalists received criminal records and were even interned via remand on minor public order charges. Many of us do not forget, and the deep-rooted distain for the PSNI has burned ever since.
When it came to sentencing, we seen loyalists get suspended prison sentences for unnotifed public processions. When republicans face the same charges they get conditional discharges or fines. I will never forget that on the very day, before the very same judge, that myself and William Frazer were denied bail on minor non-violent public order offences, IRA terrorist Sean Hughes was granted bail on terrorism charges. And who could forget the shame brought upon the office of DPP by Barra McGrory, who displayed a patently political agenda.
The PSNI were conceived for the very purpose of ‘greening’ policing. It should be no surprise that we then get a police force which is structurally biased in favour of nationalism. Whilst the PSNI fall over themselves to promote the GAA (which has many grounds, tournaments and trophies named after terrorists who sought to murder RUC officers), officers are disciplined for wearing a Poppy badge on their uniform in memory of fallen colleagues in the RUC. We have the perpetual public events sharing platforms with known members of the IRA Army Council (which the PSNI themselves say remains in existence) whilst criminalising every aspect of loyalism.
Less than two weeks ago we had the Chief Constable happily sharing a zoom with Harry Maguire, convicted of the IRA murder of the two corporals, on the day before the anniversary of that barbaric act of terrorism. The new PR chief, fresh from last year’s ‘outreach’ of trying to change the PSNI badge to further appease nationalists, didn’t appear to have thought that one out very well.
We had the events on the Ormeau Road, when the overriding policing purpose of placating republicans for the apparent greater good of the so called ‘peace process’, necessitated that immediately two officers had to be suspended. So appalling was the handling of this situation, the Police Ombudsman had to effectively tell the Chief Constable to shut up.
Under pressure from nationalists we then had one of the most disproportionate policing operations in recent memory deployed for a peaceful gathering in Pitt Park. A staggering twenty-two arrests inside four weeks appeared to have been the right tonic to calm nationalist anger. As ever, when the PSNI need to demonstrate their credentials in the nationalist community, it is loyalism used as the cannon fodder.
I for one am sick of it. In fact, I have been sick of it for a decade. The PSNI are rotten to their very core; it does not matter who the Chief Constable is, the whole structure is designed to operate in a two-tier manner, with unionist culture and loyalism generally to be criminalised and targeted disproportionately at every turn.
We have a Paramilitary Crime Task Force, set up following the IRA murder of Kevin McGuigan, who in nearly four years of operation have not managed to carry out one search, arrest, or investigation into PIRA. Indeed, the word PIRA it appears is prohibited from even being mentioned within the PSNI, unless it is in a positive light. How can that be?
The time for strong words and wagging fingers from political unionism has passed. It is time they caught up with the reality that many of us have been pointing out for years; the PSNI is inherently biased in favour of nationalism and no more can the two-tier policing be tolerated.
It is now the case that the DUP have accepted the position of Simon Byrne is untenable. If he refuses to go (as he has) then the position of policing is untenable by their own logic. Policing in post-1998 NI claims its credibility by virtue of the Policing Board and unionist and nationalist support. Continued membership of the Policing Board bestows credibility on a police force which is institutionally biased, and as such the only logical step is for unionist members to step down from the Policing Board and refuse to further provide cover to a pro nationalist police force being weaponised and used for political purposes against the unionist and loyalist community.
At a community level, many loyalist community groups in recent weeks have already withdrawn all cooperation with the PSNI, but this should become a more widespread position. If there is anyone within the unionist/loyalist community who has a credible argument as to why anyone should be continuing to engage with community policing, PCSPs or other limbs of the PSNI, then Unionist Voice is an open platform for such a person to put forward a counter argument to that argued in this article.
Young people within the loyalist community call the PSNI the ‘PSNIRA’. Retired members of the RUC regularly speak with me and express their disgust and outrage at the politically motivated actions of the PSNI; they bring nothing but shame on the memory of the brave men and women of the RUC. The First Minister of the country accepts the position of the Chief Constable is untenable. And yet, the PSNI senior management team continue to bury their heads in the sand.
The rule of law is being mutilated by the PSNI, and the fundamental principle of equality under the law is being shredded by a two tier system of policing. It is in defence of the rule of law, and equality under it, that unionism/loyalism must draw and line in the sand and refuse to further bestow credibility on the increasingly out of control and overtly biased PSNI.