The less than gratifying response of the British state’s leading prosecutor in Ireland to the judicious stance taken by a Derry judge in the case of Marian Price et al has further reinforced a vindictive trend in Britain’s Northern Irish policy. It also underscores the need for society not to take its watchful eye off an area most certain to produce abuses if left to its own devices and self regulation. Unwilling to allow the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to play footloose and fancy free with people’s liberty while reaffirming the principle that everyone was entitled to a fair trial within a reasonable time frame the judge, Barney McElhome, decided that he, not the PPS, would decide how long a case would be dragged out.
Terrified by the thought that law enforcement and its associated agencies might not always be able to bulldoze the rights of citizens out of its way the DUP sprang out of the traps and pointed the finger at the PPS, accusing it of having put the ball into its own net. The DUP know the score. The PPS plays for the British team and own goals are simply not permissible. It is there to do a job and the DUP expects it to do no less. Paul Girvan who heads up the justice committee at Stormont cited Thursday’s judgement:
The judge has made it clear he's putting the blame with the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for not having the proper papers ready and I think it's for the director of the PPS now to come forward and to explain why his organisation didn't have those papers ready.
And come forward to answer the DUP the director surely did. Barra McCrory, stung by the DUP assertion moved quickly, not with a defence of the judge and due process but with a commitment to pander to the DUP by finding new ways to push the case against those who had the charges dropped yesterday.
The PPS’s first response was:
We are very surprised that the court has taken this step in circumstances where this was the first occasion that the case has been listed for preliminary inquiry ... PPS are examining all the circumstances and how we will proceed. This is in no way the end of the case.
McGrory then moved to firm this up. He stated his intention to subvert the judicial decision in Derry, insisting that the judge’s decision was ‘by no means the end of the matter’ that the case would be ‘recommenced in another way’, adding that ‘this case will proceed, perhaps a little bit later now than would have been case, but for these events.’ Which is simply ‘another way’ of seeking to turn the judge’s ruling against procrastination on its head and prolong proceedings for as long as possible. A typical British strategy from the conflict days, which Barra McGrory’s father, Paddy, fought tooth and nail to frustrate in a ream of cases. Some apples fall further from the tree than we might think.
The PPS is what Louis Althusser once termed a Repressive State Apparatus (RSA). McGrory, its leading figure, has previously exhibited a penchant for the repressive with his justification of the supergrass system, something his late father also campaigned vigorously against on the grounds that it was a deeply flawed legal strategy which led to serious human rights violation. Determined to deny Price her freedom, intent on achieving that objective ‘another way’ and uncomfortable about the flak being directed at her continuing detention without trial, the PPS seems intent on regularising her detention at some point in the distant future with a conviction that will offset the allegations of internment currently being levelled against the British state.