Police failed to communicate with those on the ground. A quick two minutes to explain the situation to either Gerry Kelly or the SDLP‘s Alban Maginness, who was also present, could have instantly defused a volatile atmosphere.
aaway the shock value of the ‘Gerry on the jeep’ incident and the events in north Belfast at the weekend provides a glimpse into operational policing here that the wider public rarely get a chance to see.
It’s hard to imagine a British cabinet minister hopping on the bonnet of a panda car or a senior TD leaping on a garda vehicle, but thats just what happened on Friday evening at Carrick Hill. Gerry Kelly is a former junior minister, a member of the policing board and one of Sinn Fein‘s most senior figures. In fairness to the Sinn Fein MLA I’ve been covering flashpoint parades and the disturbances that often go with them for a while now and have the scars to prove they can be volatile and unpredictable events. It’s impossible to plan what way things are going to pan out as the aftermath of the Tour of the North on Friday clearly showed. While the parade passed relatively peacefully, albeit with several suspected breaches of the Parades Commission ruling by a number of bands, it was the policing of nationalist residents and the reaction to it that made the headlines. The arrest of a 16-year-old for alleged provocative behaviour was the catalyst for the well documented ‘shinner on the saracen’ incident.
On the face of it Gerry Kelly’s behaviour seems incredibly rash and ill thought out, but what most people aren’t aware of is how much ‘security’ at ththese events is carried out using a ‘policing by consent’ model. While we were given a glimpse of this during the loyalist flags protests – when senior officers admitted for the first time that policing was being carried out on a ‘least worst option basis’ – it is in fact used to police many marches and protests. One side will be hemmed in to facilitate another, not because they are considered the biggest threat but in fact the opposite because they are considered easier to control. You may think the law is black and white but not in the North of Ireland where it can be any one of 50 shades of gray.
DUP assembly members who are also members of the Orange Order are regularly seen marching in parades in which legal determinations are disregarded by the accompanying bands. Elected representatives, community and at times paramilitary figures have the ability to ease tensions, calm situations and form a buffer between youths and police – should they want to. This was seen in east Belfast during the month of January when the UVF stepped in to stop violence by effectively doing the job of the police. Policing in what is often referred to as hard to reach communities is regularly carried out in this way. And in many cases police are happy to facilitate this response.
If there is any doubt that this is the case take a look at the guest list to the talks in Cardiff which included not just elected representatives but unelected paramilitary figures and self styled ‘brigadiers’. All give assurances to communicate in times of tension and swapped contact numbers to ensure that this was followed through. While this may not be ideal in a supposedly democratic society it can be quicker, cheaper and safer than sending in the riot squad. Gerry Kelly was one of those who agreed to the ‘Cardiff principles’ as were senior police officers from assistant chief constable level down. Friday night was the first real test of this new spirit of cooperation and the wheels fell off – or sped up depending what side of the Land Rover windscreen you were on. Police failed to communicate with those on the ground. A quick two minutes to explain the situation to either Gerry Kelly or the SDLP’s Alban Maginness, who was also present, could have instantly defused a volatile atmosphere. Equally putting into practice the method of communication agreed at Cardiff rather than steeping in front of a moving vehicle would have showed the talks were beneficial and more than just a boys’ jolly. We are now just weeks from the Twelfth and tensions are higher than ever. The Cardiff weekend founded by the public purse has failed to produce the goods. Carrick Hill is now on par with Ardoyne with potential for violence at an all time high and still the Orange Order have not sat down with residents to hammer out a solution to the hamster wheel of marches, recrimination and sectarian tensions. Pass me my hard hat – I’m going in…..
With many thanks to : Allison Morris, The Irish News.
- Dup: Gerry Kelly Must Face Full Rigour of the Law (belfastdaily.co.uk)
- Minister hurt by police vehicle (standard.co.uk)
- Sinn Fein should act on Gerry Kelly’s behaviour, says DUP MP Nigel Dodds (newsletter.co.uk)
- Kelly’s Land Rover Ride Seen As Model Behaviour ! (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Perhaps Nigel Dodds would like to explain what he means by “nobody is above the law”. !!! (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Jamie Bryson makes formal complaint to PSNI about Gerry Kelly (newsletter.co.uk)
- Tensions High Ahead of First Major Loyalist March ! (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Loyalists, Republicans and Police Swap Phone Numbers. (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)