Simon Smyth with an intervention in the debate on the police use of informers. The author frequently comments on TPQ and expresses a preference for the politics of Sinn Fein over and above those of other parties.
I find that constant referral to the leadership and others in Sinn Fein as being informers or sheep takes strength away from the arguments which criticise Sinn Fein policy and practice.
Now, Gerry Kelly supports the use of informers but this doesn't make him an informer any more than any other person who supports the use of informers be they SDLP or Sticks or the ordinary man in the street. A better argument, as has been articulated, is that he isn't a Republican or is much less of one.
I support Sinn Fein but don't give them a blank cheque. I support policing in so far as it deals with crime and doesn't exploit crime like it did in the past. The return of petty, vindictive prosecutions against the spirit of the GFA today, the weakness of the Policing Board, the mismanagement of the HET and the poor candidate selection of the Ombudsman are all arguments against supporting the police. However there are more weighty arguments in favour of supporting the police particularly when dealing with crime. There is a comparatively high level of accountability and transparency.
It can't be left up to Republicans of today to carry out policing style investigations and/or punishments. The best police forces in the world make mistakes and Republicans are even more prone to making mistakes through nepotism, favouritism, closing ranks or pure human error. This is because Republicans aren't skilled, qualified or resourced to deal with policing. All organisations are prone to human weaknesses like abuse of power or negligence. At least the PSNI have accountability measures like the Policing Board and the Ombudsman.
No single organisation can be in charge of both policing and the distribution of justice. Justice has not only to be done but has to be seen to be done.
No organisation should investigate itself. This goes for Republicans and the PSNI as well.
Republicans will always have paedophiles in their midst. You don't magically stop having the potential to become a sex offender as soon as you join the IRA. There will always be weak people: bullies, paedophiles, thieves, the corrupt etc. If people aren't allowed to go to the police to report ordinary criminal behaviour then the mistakes of the past will re-occur. Your neighbour or your kith and kin could be a victim. What then?
The crime will happen, it is how it is dealt with that matters.
I don't support the use of informers since it jeopardises people's lives, exploits individuals and turns a blind eye to serious anti-social crimes to pressure those perpetrators into a blind alley of a double life. The practice involves bribery, blackmail and other pressure. Even if the informer is completely and enthusiastically a spy it exploits his right to life in a squalid intelligence war where grey is the colour of choice.
A civilian giving information about Republicanism shouldn't be equated with a paid informer or agent. A victim of a crime unrelated to the conflict but which involves a Republican as the perpetrator should also never be equated to informing and they should always be actively encouraged to go to the police. The perpetrator is responsible for that, not the victim.
Every organisation is compromised to one level or another so there has to be informers in Sinn Fein. However, blaming Sinn Fein policy on this by exaggerating the extent of the infiltration is unnecessary, specious, and detracts from any valuable, worthwhile debate.
As for painting the others in Sinn Fein as sheep it is untrue as most of them are intelligent, knowledgeable people who have decided for themselves what political direction they take. They are just as intelligent as their detractors and accusations of blindly acting at the behest of a leadership again detracts from powerful, solid criticism.
Sinn Fein people also take away from the debate with calling detractors "informers" or "dissidents".
Only one party is the winner and that is the British and Unionist establishment. We are all chasing our tails in frustration at a flawed situation with the Unionists laughing quietly and possibly some hoping that harsh words will spill over into violence.
I say this with respect for people who articulate opposing views but I have no respect at the times when the same people make baseless statements based on hearsay and rumour. Better to attack policy on the grounds of principle than employ character assassination based on wishful thinking.
I had no individual in mind writing this neither accuser nor accused as it is a current trend which has seriously hampered debate.