Collusion was how the British did business. They had a policy, they enforced the policy directly or indirectly whenever convenient. So if they didn’t want the world to know that they intended to suppress a population through violence, they just let those they recruited as proxies do it for them. They have done it across the globe for centuries.
Did we think with a peace agreement that collusion went away? Well, actually, we talk about collusion in the past tense, so maybe we did. And who can blame us. We had a peace agreement that came about where no one claimed victory and no one was defeated. We “moved on”.
In particular we transformed policing, spending millions of pounds to create a “new beginning to policing”, and never said why. We never had an official process that stated the extent of criminality that pervaded the Royal Ulster Constabulary and why we needed a human rights framework unparalleled in the world, to govern police for six counties of Ireland.
Of course in the background we knew that generally only Protestants joined. We knew that issues like shoot to kill policies and the criminal use of plastic bullets didn’t only exist but were covered up, with those shining a light on them accused of being part of terrorist sympathising propaganda. We knew that we could never have a peace while the RUC existed in tact. But it was never said officially. What happened instead was great big gratuities were paid to those who would not work under human rights frameworks and the Queen of England visited and gave them a medal. A uniquely local solution to a stinking problem.
And so from this convenience of silence was born the PSNI. If we all agreed that a fresh start meant that the future was brighter than the past and we gave it a fair wind, the past would remain in its place, and we would all move forward with a desperately needed new police service.
This week the folly of our convenient if understandable approach came to bite us. By the PSNI’s own admission the UVF is up to its collective neck in drug dealing, violence and murder. And yet policing measures to address this are failing. The only question is why? Is it spectacular ineptitude or is it collusion? Are agents of the state working for the UVF being protected?
Events in Avoneil this week demand that we ask that question directly and without blush or awkwardness. The City Council premises became a ridiculous pretence of Loyalism’s last stand when in fact it was a show of strength by the UVF. It was a reassertion of violence and criminality following a spotlight after the killing of Ian Ogle. The PSNI facilitated this. Unashamedly.
The new Chief Constable needs to move now to demonstrate that he is willing to uphold the law without fear or favour. Without fear of the greater threat of violence “the Orange Card’, or without favour to those in the pay of the state who carry the flag of the union.
If he does not he will cement the crisis in nationalist confidence regarding the PSNI following its perpetual defence of the RUC and state interests in legacy matters by introducing a contemporary relationship of collusion with loyalism. We are at the fork of a road we should have seen coming.