24 September 2009 Edition
The Mary Nelis Column
Baggot faces crucial test
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand the media hype around the supposed threat of ‘terrorists’ attacks against the new Chief Constable of the PSNI, Matt Baggot. The outworking last Monday of the alleged ‘threat’ in Derry resulted in traffic chaos throughout the City during the early morning rush hour period.
Mr Baggot comes with an impressive array of policing credentials all of which he will need if he is to sort out the remnants of the old sectarian RUC still wagging the tail of the fledgling ‘new beginners’.
The fact that he worked with the former Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan, on the British National Review of Policing may be considered a blot in an otherwise impressive CV, which included heading up the British Metropolitan Police team assisting the Stephen Lawrence public enquiry.
His involvement in the enquiry into the racist attack on Stephen Lawrence may stand him in good stead if he is to root out the racist ongoing sectarian attacks on both the Catholic and the immigrant community endemic in this neck of the woods. He may not be aware that certain elements within the PSNI, under his predecessor’s watch, have been accused in Court of ‘naked sectarian policing’ when they facilitated Orange Order members to erect loyalists flags in a Nationalists area some yards away from the spot where community worker Kevin McDaid was brutally murdered by a Unionist gang.
No doubt someone in the media so up tight about perceived threats by‘dissidents’ will put a word in his ear, if he doesn’t already know, about the attacks on the Roma community. The Unionist Village area of Belfast hit the world headlines when men, women and children were intimidated not only out of their homes but out of the country as well. As a committed Christian he may well want to address the fact that over 90% of hate crimes originate in Unionist communities, ranging from bomb and bullet attacks on the homes of migrant workers, to attacks on Catholic Churches for the simple reason that Catholic Filipino nurses working at the nearby Ulster Hospital attend Mass there.
He may also be concerned that the Derry and Antrim branches of the Ulster Political Research group which provides political analysis to the still armed UDA, has withdrawn its support for the PSNI.
Of course coming from a place that is institutionally sectarian, he should have some understanding that maintaining the privileged position of the British Establishment with Unionism and the Orange Order is a source of continuing conflict and division.
However, no matter that these are urgent issues that will require his attention; the new man will be measured by his response to the Belfast Coroners directive to make available the findings of the Stalker/Sampson report into shoot to kill allegations in the 1980’s.
John Stalker also came with an impressive pedigree in policing in England. He was appointed by the British Government to investigate the controversial murders by a death squad specialists unit within the RUC. The then Chief Constable John Hermon and members of the RUC effectively obstructed the investigation amid unfounded allegations about Stalker’s private life and he was removed from the investigation. His predecessor Hugh Orde refused to hand over the report which was completed by Colin Sampson.
It will take six weeks for us to test the mettle of Matt Baggot but most of us will not hold our breaths.