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14 May 2009 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

Unequal treatment

ON a day when the British-appointed Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in the North issued a report on the inequalities of the North’s prison system for Catholics/nationalists, the DUP wants to downgrade the Equality Commission established under the Good Friday Agreement.
Dr Michael Maguire stated that 80 per cent of prison officers are from the Protestant community and “Catholic prisoners receive fewer privileges than Protestants”. Translated that means that prisoners from the republican/nationalist community are still treated with hostility by a prison regime drawn mainly from the unionist community.
The sectarian baggage of the ‘jobs for the boys’ is still evident despite dramatic improvements for all prisoners won over the years by republican protests in the face of the brutality of the North’s prison regime.
Meanwhile, the Chief Electoral Officer, Douglas Bain, seems to have a flair for disposing of papers, whether application forms from electors (some 40,000 applicants have been refused admission to the electoral register) or prison files (some 5,600 have been destroyed during the watch of this highly-salaried official who was Director of Prison Services when files were destroyed against British Government policy).
You would imagine that Ian Paisley Jnr, who has refused to identify the prison officer he alleges told him that thousands of files were destroyed in the aftermath of the assassination of LVF leader Billy Wright in jail and under the watch of Douglas Bain, would demand that Bain, as Director of Prison Services at the time, be held accountable. Instead, Paisley Jnr has elected to protect his sources and has told the inquiry to take a hike, incurring court costs of some £12,000 that will be passed on to the taxpayer So much for DUP efficiency savings, never mind their concern for victims.
Back at the ranch, his party colleague, Willie McCrea, told the Wright Inquiry that he knew that his friend Billy was going to be killed but he didn’t tell Douglas Bain and he certainly didn’t tell the PSNI because he didn’t know who he could trust. Some friend is our Willie.
Bain has denied that he was warned that files were being destroyed but even the suspicion of such happenings should have been sufficient to warrant that he would never be placed in a position of trust again. But, like most people of his ilk, he moved sideways to a more lucrative position where his talents for paperwork would ensure the destruction of thousands of forms from the voters in socially-disadvantaged nationalist communities. 
The proposed DUP merger of the Equality, Human Rights and Children’s Commissions would be laudable if one didn’t read the fine print. The Equality Commission apparently employs more Catholics at a lower grade level than Protestants. In the wake of the killings of two soldiers and a police officer, Monica McWilliams, the Human Rights Commissioner, visited the serious crimes suite at Antrim PSNI station, where several suspects where detained for periods that were clearly in breach of their human rights.
The proposed mergers by the DUP is directed at getting rid of those watchdogs that keep in check the ambitions of a party still intent on restoring the long-gone “Protestant parliament for a Protestant people” and ‘smashing Sinn Féin’. Getting rid of the DUP  – that would be a real efficiency savings. 

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