Northern Ireland’s police service is weak and inept

The data breach at the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which has seen the personal details of all serving officers and just under 2,500 civilian staff accidentally released as part of a response to a Freedom of Information request, is the sort of grotesque, IT foul-up normally reserved for the realms of satire like The Thick of It.  There is a slim chance that any officers in the Province will be laughing. The attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell in front of his young son in Fermanagh earlier this year underlined acutely that dissident republicans hellbent on killing police officers ‘haven’t gone away you know’, to quote Gerry Adams.  In the

The dog catcher, the terrorist and the dark history of Sinn Fein

The dead in the ground and those who put them there in the name of ideology do not rest easily in Ireland. The Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin was recently forced to close its wall of remembrance to those who died in the Easter rising of 1916 because of relentless vandalism. In previous attacks the wall had been smashed with sledgehammers and in 2017 paint was thrown over it. What drove this constant destruction? It seems it was targeted because the attackers could not tolerate the presence of the names of British soldiers on the wall. These soldiers had died alongside republican rebels and civilians in the five days of insurrection

Dennis Hutchings and the problem with a Troubles amnesty

The death of the former solider Dennis Hutchings from Covid-19 during his trial for attempted murder is yet another example of the complex legacy problem which besets Northern Ireland. Hutchings, who was 80 years old, was accused of killing John Pat Cunningham, 27, in County Tyrone in 1974. Hutchings’ supporters – which includes a broad swathe of unionist politicians, the Tory MP Johnny Mercer and the wider veteran community – regarded his prosecution as a disgrace. The 80-year-old, kept alive by dialysis, was dragged to Belfast from Cornwall for the non-jury trial. After his death, Hutchings’ lawyer argued he would still be alive had he not been compelled to go to

The Troubles amnesty and the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein

Predictably – and understandably – the Northern Ireland Office’s proposed amnesty for crimes relating to the Troubles has resulted in a backlash across both sides of the Ulster divide. Yet, while the criticism was initially uniform, rifts have already emerged in the week since they were first unveiled. The noble ideal that justice delayed is justice denied has proved relatively feeble as a unifying glue, despite the Northern Ireland Assembly voting on Tuesday for a motion rejecting Westminster’s proposals. Prior to that vote, which heard many heartfelt and worthy speeches from across the chamber about the moral and legal basis for rejecting the amnesty, a gathering took place outside the

Has Boris Johnson forgotten what he once said about IRA terrorists?

Boris Johnson’s approach to dealing with historical prosecutions in Northern Ireland has achieved that unique political feat in the Province: uniting both sides in revulsion at what is being proposed. Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis is expected to announce a statute of limitations ending prosecutions in cases which pre-date the 1998 Belfast Agreement. Reports suggest that this will apply not only to members of the security forces but also republican and loyalist paramilitaries. This was always a likely end point in Northern Ireland’s ‘process’, indicative of the British political class’ reflex instinct to wish the Province and its troubles away. Labour kicked this off with their mass release of paramilitaries and the issuing of

Troubles’ veterans on both sides deserve immunity from prosecution

The recent decision by Boris Johnson’s government to put a five-year time-bar, save in exceptional circumstances, on the prosecution of British troops for crimes committed during overseas operations, came as a welcome relief to soldiers. Those who served their country abroad now know they are effectively safe from stale prosecutions in the distant future; veterans who have long since moved on can now live in peace.  But note the word ‘overseas’. Why not everywhere? The answer is easy: the Irish elephant in the room. The government feared that any attempt to time-limit prosecutions over events during the Northern Ireland Troubles would stir a hornets’ nest. It chose instead to leave those who had

Why is nobody talking about Northern Ireland?

It is depressingly appropriate that a weekend which started on Good Friday was one which illustrated the shaky foundations of the agreement which brought a form of peace to Northern Ireland. Twenty three years on from that landmark deal, discontent among the Province’s unionist and loyalist community is beginning to mount. Violence once again erupted on the streets of Derry last night. It was a repeat of the ugly scenes that played out over Easter weekend in Belfast’s loyalist Sandy Row area. Petrol bombs were flung and a total of 32 police officers were injured. The latest spark is mounting unhappiness among unionist pro-British groups at the Northern Ireland Protocol.

What Roy Greenslade doesn’t understand about the Troubles

Belleek is the most westerly point in the United Kingdom. It’s a small village, right on Northern Ireland’s frontier where Country Fermanagh reaches out towards the Atlantic. The final destination for many motorists driving across a now invisible border are the beaches of County Donegal. It is the place we learned this weekend where journalist Roy Greenslade was persuaded to support the violent extremism of the provisional IRA in the 1970s and 80s. Greenslade’s views on republican terrorism were, of course, an open secret for many years, as he rose to senior positions at the Sunday Times, the Daily Mirror and, latterly, became a professor of journalism at City, University

Is a poetry contest really the way to remember Martin McGuinness?

‘What rhymes with Patsy Gillespie?’ That was the starkest reaction on social media to the recent announcement of the launch of a poetry prize dedicated to Derry IRA commander and former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness. Mr Gillespie, 42, was a cook at the Fort George Army base in Derry city. In October 1990, republican terrorists abducted him from his home in front of his family, taking them hostage. They chained him to the driver’s seat of a van full of explosives and forced him to drive into a permanent army checkpoint on the border where they detonated the 1,200lb bomb, killing him and five soldiers. Gillespie