Irish Blog Whacked

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Reports are coming to our desk, of a huge rally of several thousand people, under cover of darkness,  in solidarity with the interned Marian Price, taking place in Coalisland as we publish. We are awaiting independent confirmation of theses reports, before publishing further details on the International Women's Day rally against internment without trial in British Occupied Ireland. Meanwhile here are the latest updates from Irish Republican News.

    Friday-Thursday, 1-7 March, 2013

2.  Robinson attacks police, judges
3.  Coalition in media push ahead of Meath by-election
4.  'Broken promises' to republican prisoners
5.  Pressure mounts for Price's release
6.  DUP finds offence in Korean concept car
7.  Feature: Mairead Farrell
8.  Analysis: Robinson is out of touch



An attack apparently planned by the 'new IRA' against the PSNI's Strand
Road base in Derry bore the hallmarks of a similar attack in 1991 by
the Provisional IRA on Downing Street, according to security experts in
the North.

A van with an open roof and containing a number of mortar rockets was
intercepted in Derry on Sunday. The find suggests the organisation,
which regrouped last year, has significant technical skills and the
capacity to mount relatively complex operations.

Four men were held by the PSNI after the van was stopped on the
Letterkenny Road in the city, just after 8pm on Sunday. British army
bomb experts who attended the scene came under petrol bomb attack. Two
of the men were later released unconditionally.

It is thought the design of the van would have allowed four rockets
hidden within to be aimed and fired at a considerable distance. A
launching pad similar to the one recovered in Derry was used to attack
(then) British prime minister John Major as he presided over a meeting
of the British war cabinet.

Local PSNI chief Stephen Cargin said the rockets were within minutes of
being fired and suggested the target of the attack must have been the
Strand Road barracks, one of the largest Crown Force bases in the
North. The base has been the subject of countless IRA attacks over the

In May 2010 a mortar bomb was fired at the same station, but failed to
explode. It was claimed by another breakaway group, Oglaigh na
hEireann. The same organisation claimed responsibility this week for
two separate attacks on members of the British Crown forces, both
involving booby-trap devices, in November and December of last year. It
also said it was behind a punishment shooting in north Belfast last

Amid the condemnation of this week's attack, Stormont politicians
nevertheless expressed confidence that the 'new IRA' has being
subjected to blanket surveillance and deeply infiltrated by British

Their arguments appeared to be borne out when a former member of the
'Real IRA' was shot dead in County Meath, less than 72 hours after the
Derry incident, following an apparent dispute within the organisation. 
Members of the Garda Special Branch who observed the shooting made five
arrests, although one man has since been released.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly claimed in a contentious internet message that
the "dissidents are so infiltrated, its hard to know if they planned
[an] attack on Derry people or state agents did".

Unionist and republican hardliners alike challenged his remark.

"Whenever people did make similar comments [in relation to the
Provisional IRA], senior Sinn Fein people were lining up to accuse them
of mischief making and to attack them. But now he is making the same
type of comment," said the DUP's Gregory Campbell.

He said the same statement could have been made about past IRA actions.
The East Derry MP claimed the Provisional IRA "was riddled with
informers", and it "wasn't only Denis Donaldson, and others that we
know about".

Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness praised the PSNI for
"intercepting" the mortars.

He said: "It was through their good work that we are not talking about
a disastrous situation in Derry," he said.

He later claimed to have received a death threat from a nameless
dissident organisation in Derry. He said the PSNI had told him of "a
real and active threat against his life".

"They linked the threat to my condemnation of the recent attempted
mortar attack in the city and other remarks made in support of the
PSNI", he said, adding: "I will not be silenced".


>>>>>> Robinson attacks police, judges

The First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson has attacked the
policing and judicial system in the North after three ringleaders of
the recent flags disturbances were arrested last week.

Robinson lashed out over what he suggested was discrimination against
loyalists when two of those arrested, Jamie Bryson and Willie Frazer,
were initially refused bail. After months of disturbances involving
riots, roadblocks and illegal parades, the two leaders of the 'flags
protests' and a third man, right-wing extremist Jim Dowson, were
arrested and charged last week with public order offences. Frazer and
Dowson were later awarded bail.

The violence began following a vote by Belfast City Council in December
to reduce the number of days on which the British flag is flown over
City Hall in central Belfast. It reached a climax in January with
several days of rioting by the unionist paramilitary UVF outside a
small nationalist enclave in east Belfast.

After weeks of police inaction, the force was apparently stung into
action when it was accused by the Parades Commission of ignoring
law-breaking in connection with the loyalists' illegal parades.

Bryson managed to avoid arrest for two days last week, and even teased
the PSNI through the internet over their failure to find him.  He
continues to be refused bail, although it was unlikely he would have
accepted bail in any event -- he had previously urged loyalists to
reject bail conditions as a protest against their arrest.

Appearing in court earlier today [Friday], it was heard how the PSNI
had made considerable efforts to capture the 23-year-old; firstly at
his home, and secondly after being spotted in Bangor, County Down. He
was eventually found in a converted attic at the home of a pastor, who,
the court heard, attempted to prevent the PSNI from gaining entry into
the house.

Bryson later claimed that following his arrest, he had carried out a
one-man hunger strike for more than 24 hours.

The judge at his bail hearing, while refusing bail, condemned as
"ill-informed" comments this week by the First Minister. The DUP leader
had urged the North's top judge, Declan Morgan, to be more lenient with
loyalists (and harsher on republicans) in order to address "public
disquiet" over what he said were "perceived differences in their

At the same time, Robinson also carpeted the police over the arrests
and bail decisions. On Monday, PSNI chief Matt Baggott and his senior
command team were summoned to Stormont, where the First Minister
complained that two republicans had recently been awarded bail. He was
referring to the terminally ill Brian Shivers, whose conviction for a
2009 'Real IRA' attack was quashed in January, and Sean Hughes, a
former political activist accused of attending an alleged 'IRA meeting'
in Belfast eight years ago.

Speaking after the meeting, Robinson claimed a "large section" of
unionists "don't believe the police have been impartial in dealing with
these issues".

"Therefore, in my view [it is] an imperative issue for the police to
show why they take decisions, with regard to a set of circumstances,
differently than another," he declared.

SDLP assembly member Conall McDevitt, a member of the Policing Board,
said Mr Robinson's comments were "outrageous" and "only serve to
undermine the PSNI" and heighten tensions.

McDevitt received a loyalist death threat this week, while a viable
bomb, the second in two weeks, was left outside a Catholic church in
Newtownabbey, north of Belfast. Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew was also
the subject of a hoax loyalist bomb attack.

Robinson said his meeting with Baggott provided an opportunity for the
PSNI chief to promise he would go easier on the loyalist extremists. He
said he had only advised him to say that his force would be
"even-handed" in the future.

Alliance Assembly member Stewart Dickson, whose offices were set on
fire by loyalist gangs earlier this year over his party's support for
the flags decision at Belfast city council, accused the First Minister
of only increasing tensions.

"This has just confirmed what we already knew; that Peter Robinson is
only interested in the politics of 'us and them'," he said.

"No politician should ever seek to direct a judge on an individual

"He has said that he is the First Minister of the people but this
statement shows that he is only interested in being the First Minister
of Unionism."

Rejecting Robinson's comments, Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly also pointed to
the immense disparity between the judicial processes for Catholics
compared to Protestants. He pointed out that 147 nationalists had been
charged in connection with political protests in recent months,
compared with only three loyalists.

The perception of loyalists is "not the reality", he said.


>>>>>> Coalition in media push ahead of Meath by-election

A two-year coalition 'progress report' published by the 26 County
government has been described as an attempt by the coalition to give
itself a 'pat on the back'.

This week Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Fine Gael and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore
of the Labour Party published the coalition's second annual report, to
mark two years in government.

Mr Kenny said that after two years of cuts, "people's hard work and
sacrifices are beginning to pay dividends".

But his claims of success over the two years were ridiculed by the
opposition. Commentators linked the new campaign to promote their
political achievements with the government parties' decline in opinion
polls and the upcoming by-election in Meath East, set for March 27th.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the government should 'take a hike'.

"If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny," he told the Dublin

"Here we have a government patting itself on the back. This is a
government that was elected two years ago and it has done the exact
opposite to what it said it was going to do."

Mr Kenny insisted the report showed the coalition was successfully
implementing its 'Programme For Government', and that the economic
decline had been stabilised.

"Just two years in, two-thirds of the commitments in the Programme have
been progressed satisfactorily," he said.

"Because they have, stability is returning. We will continue to work
with that hard-won stability to sustain our ambitious but realistic

Mr Gilmore admitted the government "had not done everything right" and
he singled out tackling mortgage arrears and high youth unemployment as
two areas they had yet to 'tackle properly'.

But Mr Adams accused Fine Gael and Labour of presiding over two years of
austerity and of significant hardship for citizens.

"In 2011 people voted for change," he said. "Instead Fine Gael and
Labour broke their election promises and implemented Fianna Fail's

"The Labour Party promised to protect the people from the most draconian
of Fine Gael's policies yet after two years household incomes are
devastated by stealth taxes and cuts to wages.

"Unemployment is at 14.2%. Youth unemployment is 27.7%. Some 87,000 have
emigrated in 2011 and that trend has continued.

"Companies are tearing up agreements with workers, arbitrarily paying
them off or denying them wages or redundancy payments.

"On Fine Gael and Labour's watch there have been a succession of savage
cuts to wages and incomes and the introduction of new additional stealth
taxes, like the household charge and family home tax; water charges;
increased VAT; increased motor tax; as well as cuts to child benefit;
cuts to home help hours, to the carer's respite care grant and much

"Last week the government again targeted the most vulnerable in our
society by scrapping the Mobility Allowance Scheme and the Motorised
Transport Grant Scheme.

"Today we learned that the number of households disconnected by gas
suppliers jumped by 36% in the third quarter of 2012."

Mr Adams warned that a new Public Service wage agreement would make
things worse.

"I believe the Croke Park 2 agreement will exacerbate the austerity
driven agenda of this government and that working families - those on
low and middle incomes - will be squeezed again. Frontline workers have
been especially and unfairly targeted.

"Austerity is not working. It is the disadvantaged and low and middle
income families who are bearing the burden - again.

"The leaders of Fine Gael and Labour are in no position to pat
themselves on the back. They have implemented two years of austerity
policies and caused significant hardship for citizens."


>>>>>> 'Broken promises' to republican prisoners

Republican Sinn Fein have said that promises of a breakthrough in ending
full-body strip-searching of prisoners in Maghaberry jail in County
Antrim "have come to nought" following the announcement last month that
the electronic scanning machine will not now be installed in the jail.

The promise of the scanner was made by British Minister for Justice at
Stormont, David Ford, towards the end of 2012.  It was a key factor in
the republican prisoners suspending their dirty protest after three
years in November 2012 "in order to give the prison regime another
opportunity to acknowledge and implement the agreement all parties
signed up to in August 2010".

The ending of strip-searching and the establishment of free association
for all republican political prisoners were cornerstones of that

The agreement was reached after protracted talks involving the prison
authorities and Stormont officials.

On February 14 this year, Ford's office and the prison authorities
suddenly announced that the electronic scanners -- hi-tech equipment
similar to that used at airports -- would not now be installed.

The British authorities claimed that the machines "failed to find
concealed items such as drugs, scissors and knives during a trial", even
though airlines around the world routinely use the machines for security

It was claimed that more than 1,000 ODCs ('ordinary decent criminal')
prisoners who took part in the trial were searched using the alternative
scanners at Magilligan prison and Hydebank Wood over the past three

"The use of selected prisoners from the mainstream prison instead of
using PoWs from Roe House for the trial tells its own tale," RSF said.

"Mainstream prisoners don't have a lot of choice when it comes to
'offers' from the prison authorities. It is common to offer inducements
to mainstream prisoners to co-operate with the authorities  the 'it is
in your own interests', a veiled threat. Add to that the fact that it
was prison warders who conducted the trial."

In another turn, the prison regime added a further 'rule' previously
unheard of with republican prisoners -- the prisoners have been told
that they have to accept a drugs test before they can be granted parole.

Forced full-body strip-searches, and brutality used in these searches,
are now being carried out on republican prisoners in Maghaberry jail,
RSF said.

"This practice will never be acceptable. Neither will the continued
harassment and intimidation of the POWs by the warders".

"While we will not tar them all with the one brush, they will continue
to obey orders from Whitehall and Stormont to make PoWs lives as
miserable as possible as the alternative is unacceptable to them -- a
well-run Roe House where Republican Prisoners of War are treated as such
-- PoWs with full political status."


>>>>>> Pressure mounts for Price's release

Fermanagh District Council has passed a motion calling for the immediate
release of interned political activist Marian Price. It agreed to write
to the current British Direct Ruler, Theresa Villiers, calling for her

Marian Price, a 59-year-old former IRA Volunteer, was interned by the
British government almost two years ago. The then British Direct Ruler
Owen Patterson revoked her life sentence licence after she was arrested
over her involvement in a republican rally in Derry's city cemetery at
Easter 2011.

She is now under armed guard at Belfast City Hospital where she is being
treated for depression, arthritis and lung problems.

Last month she was refused permission to attend the funeral for her
sister, Dolours. The two sisters had been force-fed for over 200 days to
prevent them dying on hunger strike following their arrest in England in
the 1970s.

Independent Councillor Bernice Swift proposed the motion calling for
Marian's release at this week's meeting of Fermanagh District Council.

"Marian Price is being illegally interned," she said. "As a woman, there
is a blatant violation of her human rights. This makes a mockery of our
peace process," said Councillor Swift.

"I object," replied the Democratic Unionist Party's Bert Johnston, "She
is a bomber."

Twelve councillors, including members of Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted
for sending the letter to Villiers, while 10 members of the unionist
parties voted against it.

Former DUP Minister Arlene Foster said she was "disgusted" at the
outcome of Monday's vote.

"The fact this comes just a few months after the decision by Dungannon
Council to support the release of Gerry McGeough, makes vote even more
disgraceful," she said.

Her internment had the force of law, she said, and republicans had to
accept that.

"The DUP is absolutely clear in our view that everyone must be treated
equally under the law but it would seem that republicans and
nationalists seem to believe that this should not apply to certain
sections of the community."

But she reserved her deepest anger for the moderate nationalist SDLP.

She said: "Whether it is members of their party carrying the coffins of
INLA members, supporting play-parks being named after IRA gunmen or
calling for the release of dissident republicans, it would seem that
there is no shade of republican terrorism which cannot find support from
within the ranks of the SDLP."

However, John O'Kane of the SDLP defended his support for the motion. He
said his party remains opposed to internment without trial.

"My party is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Marian Price but
we do consider that, if there is any real evidence against Marian Price,
then she should be brought to trial instead of being kept in ongoing

Mr O'Kane said it was a "rather flimsy excuse" used to revoke Price's
licence and added: "Our record over the years is supporting civil rights
and non-violence."


Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness  attended a hearing
by the Parole Commissioners and also visited Ms Price in hospital this
week, according to Sinn Fein.

At a closed court in the Laganside complex in Belfast, Parole
Commissioners listened to submissions from Marian Price's lawyers who
argued that she should be released.

A spokesman for the commissioners said they could not make any comment
on the hearing.  Mr McGuinness also refused comment.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "The continued imprisonment of Marian
Price and Martin Corey is an affront to justice and they should be
released immediately. They are held without charge or trial."


>>>>>> DUP finds offence in Korean concept car

The DUP has drawn international amusement and scorn after claiming to be
offended by the name given to a proposed new car by Korean manufacturer

The company is to unveil the design, a coupe-style 'muscle car' with an
orange roof, at the Geneva Motor Show later this week. Tentatively
called the 'Kia Provo', the name incensed DUP MPs Gregory Campbell and
Willie McCrea.

The name 'Provo' is commonly used across Ireland as a slang term for the
Provisional IRA.

However, the DUP duo dispelled any idea that their comments were an
attempt to bring some light-hearted relief to the serious problems
facing the North of Ireland.  The hardliners quickly brought a motion
before the Westminster parliament in London demanding Kia use a new name
"which is not associated with terror and mayhem".

Kia pointed out the vehicle was not due to be sold in Ireland or Britain
under that branding in any event. The Korean manufacturer said they did
not mean to cause offence, and that the 'Provo' title had been chosen at
the company's European headquarters in Frankfurt.

"The name comes from 'provoke' as in provoking a reaction, which the car
is meant to do," they said, pointing to the car's angular styling and
flame-top roof as the key attractions of the design.

Kia chief designer Gregory Guillaume described the car as an "emotional
and muscular car aimed at delivering pure fun and performance for
today's city-based enthusiast driver".

He said it was "cheeky and cheerful in its compactness" with a "hint at
the fun awaiting on the open road".

But Campbell claimed Kia had caused "deep offence".

Only adding to the absurdity, the East Derry MP later claimed a success
when informed the name would not be used in Ireland and Britain, and
praised Kia for its "swift action".


>>>>>> Feature: Mairead Farrell


Mairead Farrell was 31 when she was assassinated by the SAS in Gibraltar
Sunday March 6th 1988. Eyewitnesses described how she, Sean Savage and
Dan McCann, members of an unarmed IRA unit, were shot without warning
and were deliberately killed at close range as they lay wounded on the

The British media, with the exception of Thames TV's "Death on the Rock,
repeated the British Army propaganda that the three were armed and the
local eyewitnesses were lying. There was also shock expressed at how a
"woman like Mairead' could have become involved with the IRA. To
Mairead, however, her membership was a logical decision made as a result
of a political analysis drawn from both personal experience and a study
of Irish history.

Mairead was born in Belfast on the 3rd August 1957; the second youngest
of six children and the only girl. She was twelve when the British Army
took over the streets of Belfast in 1969. Mairead found school work easy
but left after taking her O-levels. Politics was an important issue in
the Farrell household. Mairead listened to her grandfathers stories but
it was her Belfast experiences that politicized her, "It was really more
the events of those years growing up in the Falls we had to pass through
the Brits during the curfews you could only get out for a certain number
of hours. We were all victims of the British occupation really you just
accepted that you would be involved to defend your country.

She joined the IRA and said later, 'A lot of 17 to 19 year olds were
involved, maybe looking back I was very young then but I was politically
aware. I know that now because my views haven't changed if anything I
have become stronger, more committed." One of the attractions was "being
treated equal to the lads. I don't think sexism is rife in the
Republican Movement, although that's not to say we were exempt from it
either. I suppose I've always believed we had a legitimate right to take
up arms and defend ourselves against the Brits' occupation. I wouldn't
have got involved if I hadn't believed that."

In 1976, Mairead was arrested after taking part in the IRA's campaign.
She was convicted of possession of explosives and membership of the IRA
and sentenced to fourteen and a half years imprisonment. Mairead was
sentenced at a crucial turning point in British policy and was to become
the leader of the women in Armagh jail when the republican struggle was
focused on the prisoners.

When Mairead entered Armagh in April 1976 she was the first woman
republican prisoner to be sentenced under the new regulations and was
refused special category status. She was isolated from the Republican
organization in Armagh and only able to talk to the other fifty or so
republican women for ten minutes after Mass on Sundays. She began a "no
work protest" against the loss of special category status, "I knew now
the battle would begin - the real battle - that the struggle would be a
long and lonely one for us all

As other newly sentenced women entered Armagh they joined Mairead in
protests. Mairead became Commanding Officer. 'There was no kudos in it,
I had to take decisions that would effect all the prisoners. There were
times I felt very alone, even though I knew I had the support of the
others at all times.'

The dirty protest that began on 7th February 1980 was forced on Mairead
and her comrades. The Republican women were able to wear their own
clothes; they were all dressed in black skirts and white blouses at a
ceremony to honour Delaney. A week later, to crush this example of
organised solidarity, a squad of 60 male and female warders surrounded
the women at lunch time. Tim Pat Coogan stated that the women "were
kicked and punched until order was restored' Their cells were searched
and wrecked by the warders and after the women were returned to their
cells, "Men in riot gear armed with batons appeared in the cells again.
The girls (sic) were beaten and carried down the stairs to the guard
room to receive their punishment. The toilets were locked and they were
confined to their cells for 24 hours.'

Mairead described the events to her parents: We were not allowed
exercise nor out to the toilet or to get washed. We were locked up for
24 hours and allowed nothing to eat or drink. Male officers are still on
the wing, they have not left and are running the wing got something to
eat still not allowed use of toilet facilities. We have been forced into
a position of "Dirt Strike' as our pots are overflowing with urine and
excrement. We emptied them out of the spy holes into the wing. The male
officers nailed them closed." Then later: 'Male officers are still
running the wing Lynn O'Connell was beaten twice, the second time was
the worst. The officers jumped her as she was going out to the yard her
face is badly swollen and cut.'

In early April 1980 Mairead wrote to her relatives, "The stench of urine
and excrement clings to the cells and our bodies. No longer can we empty
the pots out the window as the male screws have boarded them up
regardless of day or night, the cells are dark for 23 hours a day we lie
in these celIs' The protest lasted 13 months. It was to Mairead the most
frightening time of her imprisonment. Women were locked in pairs in
cells measuring 3m x 2m (9ft x 6ft). During this time, Mairead told Tim
Pat Coogan, "We are in a war situation. We have been treated in a
special way and tried in special courts because of the war and because
of our political activities. We want to be regarded as prisoners of war.

On 1st December 1980, Mairead, Mary Doyle and Mairead Nugent went on
hunger strike in united action with the men in the Long Kesh 'H Blocks.
Afterwards she recalled how important was the support received from
outside and also how she hated the distress caused to her parents. She
continued on hunger strike until 19th December when it seemed the N.I.O.
had agreed to the prisoners' demands. This agreement was then retracted.

The Dirty Protest was called off in January 1981 in preparation for the
second hunger strike in the H Blocks on 1st March 1981. A difficult
decision not to join this was made by the women prisoners. It was the
worst time for them as the women waited for news of the deaths, "I know
it will be more difficult this time to win anything. It will take longer
for the pressure to build up." At the end of the interview Mairead said,
"I am a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army and a political prisoner
in Armagh jail. I am prepared to fight to the death, if necessary, to
win the recognition that I am a political prisoner and not a criminal.'

In December 1982 strip searching was introduced at Armagh. The women
republican prisoners refused to undergo these searches that were made
before women were allowed out of the prison. Her last inter-prison visit
to see her fiancee in Long Kesh was in October 1982 and she did not see
him again until her release four years later. The remand prisoners
suffered most from strip searching as they were searched before and
after court hearings and were subject to regular beatings. The women
republican prisoners ended their resistance to strip searching because
of the fear of increasingly serious assaults. Mairead was strip searched
on her release from Maghaberry Prison, "I felt it was the final insult.
It's designed as psychological torture, as a way of intimidating us."
Looking back on years in prison she saw them as teaching her the real
values in life and making her more committed to her political beliefs.

During her last years of imprisonment, Mairead took Open University
courses in Politics and Economics, and gained a place at Queen's
University on her release. She worked with the Strip Searching Campaign,
speaking at meetings all over Ireland. She then reported back to the
IRA. Just before her death she said, "You have to be realistic, you
realise that ultimately you're either going to be dead or end up in

"Everybody keeps telling me I'm a feminist. I just know I'm me and I
think I'm as good as anyone else and that particularly goes for any man.
I'm a socialist, definitely, and I'm a republican. I believe in a united
Ireland; a united socialist Ireland, definitely socialist. Capitalism
provided no answer at all for our people and I think that's the Brit's
main interest in Ireland Once we remove the British that isn't it,
that's only the beginning."


>>>>>> Analysis: Robinson is out of touch

By Allison Morris (for Irish News)

Imagine the British prime minister calling into question the
professional integrity of the Metropolitan Police. Better still,
consider what the fallout would be if the comments were made in defence
of a gang of people who had engaged in rioting, road blocking, causing
millions in damage to the economy and injuring more than 100 police
officers in the process. Unthinkable, isn't it?

Now welcome to Northern Ireland where this week First Minister Peter
Robinson told Matt Baggott that he must regain the confidence of the
"unionist community" who feel they are being "treated unfairly".

And for unionist community please read loyalist flag protesters.

Loyalists feel they are being treated differently from their nationalist
neighbours which in some ways is true.

This is because it is loyalists who after three months of mayhem are now
being subjected to the legal consequences.

Loyalist flag protesters are being arrested because it is loyalists who
have been breaking the law since the start of December.

The lawful section of society, the majority who are in danger of losing
their jobs, businesses and possibly homes because of thugs draped in a
flag think the PSNI haven't been tough enough.

Far from thinking that the flag protesters are being mistreated most
people believe up until the last week they have been treated with kid

The first minister has missed a golden opportunity to show leadership.
He is drastically out of touch with the vast majority and rather than be
progressive has pandered to the lowest common denominator.

Among those arrested and apparently hard done by is Jim Dowson, a former
fundraiser for the far-right British National Party and now
administration manager of the splinter group Britain First.

Despite the myth that loyalists are not being granted bail, he was
released by a magistrate.

Also granted bail was a Carrickfergus man who allegedly posed as a
member of the media to get up close to officers and abuse them in the
course of their duty.

Willie Frazer told a magistrate he didn't want to apply for High Court
bail because he preferred the company of the "crooks" in prison to the
ones in government.

Granted, young Jamie Bryson - whose hunger strike lasted about as long
as a pound shop battery and who taunted police on Facebook while 'on the
run' - wasn't granted bail.

But then Mr Bryson told his band of hapless followers not to apply for
bail once arrested even though he did just that, with his mummy
promising he'd be a good boy.

This is the same Mr Bryson who believes the UVF is the "people's army''
and not a bunch of terrorists, despite it murdering more than 600 people
- many of them members of its own community.

The 23-year-old, who lives in an affluent seaside suburb full of
tree-lined streets and detached homes, travelled to a volatile interface
each weekend to preach about loyalist deprivation and discrimination
before making his way home to Donaghadee where the whirr of an overhead
police helicopter is never heard.

The Patten report, which was a key aspect of the peace process, was
supposed to hail a new era in policing - not that you would know it.

Politicians from both sides, 13 and a half years on, are still screaming
'political policing', despite consistently interfering in due process
which is in fact the very definition of that overused phrase.

Peter Robinson says a "large section of our community" does not believe
the PSNI is being impartial.

"Our job is to express the concerns as we hear them in the community,"
he said.

I would question the use of the phrase "large section of our community".

If unionist politicians had spoken out in December and told the 'small
section' of lawbreakers to desist in no uncertain terms rather than - as
several DUP councillors did - stand blocking roads with them, then those
now aggrieved protesters wouldn't be facing the wrath of the criminal
justice system.

The trouble of the past three months could have ended much sooner with
far fewer arrests had unionism stepped up to the plate and reassured the
loyalist community rather than feeding into their fears and hysteria.

Matt Baggott responded to the first minister's comments yesterday by
saying: "Policing does not hold the solutions alone to the current
dispute and grievances which requires renewed political dialogue and

Unfortunately political innovation is in short supply as politicians
have instead blown the cobwebs of the outdated rhetoric of the past and
recycled it for 2013.