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Newton Emerson: Expect more PSNI platitudes after UDA feud killing

Newton Emerson

The UDA feud in Carrickfergus has cost a man his life: a widely predicted outcome of events so easily observed they have played out on social media as well as on the streets. Yet still the PSNI holds back from tackling a criminal organisation, membership alone of which is a serious offence, for fear of provoking violence - as if bullets are not already flying on residential streets. Instead, there will be more platitudes about “keeping people safe”, followed by victim-blaming appeals for community cooperation, which is neither safe nor necessary when suspects are incriminating themselves on Facebook. Stormont is more interested in past than present murders, while the rest of Northern Ireland has clearly filed the whole thing under ‘internal housekeeping’. Carrickfergus is on its own.

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Gerry Adams has disputed reports of progress at the Stormont talks but there are signs of movement in his own position. Until now, Sinn Féin has said direct rule is unacceptable, so any talks failure should lead to “joint stewardship”, with the party claiming this was London and Dublin’s agreed Plan B at St Andrews in 2007. Addressing supporters in Washington this week, Adams reiterated that he will not accept direct rule but changed “joint stewardship” to “British-Irish partnership arrangements to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is actively developed across its structures and functions.” This is what Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern actually threatened unionists with at St Andrews. Admittedly, it is not as catchy as joint stewardship. Perhaps Adams could try the acronym: BIPATETTGFAIADAISAF.

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Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a second Scottish independence referendum makes a border poll here even more “urgent”, according to Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill. But what kind of poll?

Sinn Féin’s 2017 assembly manifesto calls for “an island-wide referendum on Irish unity”, which would be outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, while its 2016 assembly manifesto calls for “island-wide referendums on Irish unity”, which would. “Sinn Féin has been consistent in our call for a referendum to be held on Irish unity”, O’Neill said on Tuesday. This statement is demonstrably incorrect.

 

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It is not the role of civil servants to defend ministers in the press, let alone when there are no ministers to defend. Yet officials still seem loath to state that the Extern charity has shut, with the loss of 47 jobs, because the executive collapsed with no budget. All the Department of Health and the Health and Social Care Board will say is that Extern’s work with vulnerable children was operated “on a pilot basis” - as if it is not an incontestable fact that Stormont’s pilots walked away from the controls.

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Among the many striking aspects of Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson’s speech to the European Parliament was her warning that “27 member states will not be able to do” what “British armoured cars and tanks and guns couldn’t do in Ireland.” Why would Sinn Féin declare war on its gallant allies in Europe? It seems even the excitable Ms Anderson understands that Brussels can only require physical manifestations of a post-Brexit border on the southern side. The UK can do what it likes, including nothing at all, as the European Commission’s former head of customs conceded in January.

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The DUP has claimed an Irish language act would cost £19 million a year. Language group Conradh na Gaeilge has produced an estimate of £2m a year, plus a £9m one-off cost to “create the basic infrastructure.” This looks closer to the mark, although language activists are still open to the charge of excessive optimism - there is no way translation at the assembly will cost half what it does in Wales, for example. It would be better to stick to the authoritative £3.5 million estimate produced by Stormont officials in 2007, not least because that was commissioned by DUP culture minister Edwin Poots.

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Considering all the laws that go un-enforced in Northern Ireland it was a very conscious decision for the PSNI to raid homes and workplaces searching for abortion pills. There was no mention of police receiving a complaint - without which they often claim they cannot act. Instead, the PSNI cited its basic legal duty to bring offenders to justice where a crime has been committed, as specified in section 32 subsection (1) paragraph (d) of the 2000 legislation that set the PSNI up. Readers in the Short Strand might find that paragraph familiar, as it was cited to the PSNI by the UK Supreme Court last month when it found officers should have stopped loyalist flag protests in east Belfast. Presumably, the PSNI would now act promptly against loyalists dealing abortion pills - which, given police priorities, is exactly where we are heading.

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It’s a political deadlock causing concern in Brussels and Washington. A coalition government cannot be formed because one party wants a language act, extending use of a minority tongue. The majority party has exploited the issue to try and stay in power but has ended up excluded from office, while the head of state has been dragged into the stand off, causing a constitutional crisis. Heaven help poor little Macedonia, whose two million people no doubt also believe their problems are exceptional.

newton@irishnnews.com

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