Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER 2000
100. To follow on from Mr McCabe, in connection
with the position of FAIT, FAIT was in operation before Vincent
McKenna became prominent within the body; and a leading light
in establishing it, who later fell out with it, was Nancy Gracey.
Nancy Gracey, presumably, in the organisation that she was running
at that time, would be making various contacts with the RUC. And
would there be, therefore, sort of an established pattern that
might have existed in the links between them, even if they were
at arm's length, that had been established historically, with
FAIT, that Vincent McKenna maybe then moved in on?
(Mr McQuillan) Again, Sir, I honestly do not know,
and I can include that in the answer, but could I say that we
actually have relationships, as an organisation, with quite literally
hundreds of groups; very often that relationship is simply that
they will write to us, they will write to us raising various issues,
we will do our best to respond to them. In terms of working with
them in partnerships, we are generally extremely careful to look
at the bone fides and objectives of the groups, before
we would engage in any joint activity. Now I simply do not know
the answers to the question you have raised, but I will endeavour
to find them out and respond to the Committee.
Mr Barnes: Thank you.
101. Can I ask just one, very small, last question,
on the same subject, Mr McQuillan. Would I be right to assume
that, if police intelligence reports did raise concerns about
any of the individuals or groups, you say hundreds, that you are
having to deal with, that would weight or impact upon the way
the police viewed information coming from those individuals, or
(Mr McQuillan) We would evaluate the information coming
from them in its own right. What it would affect would be the
way we would be prepared to work with or to enter any sort of
arrangements or partnerships with those organisations. We work
with many groups, some of which are, for example, organisations
that represent former prisoners, or even prisoners for what is
called `ordinary crime', we work with those groups, and obviously
some of their clients have long, extensive criminal records. We
would evaluate each case on its merits. We would be particularly
concerned, I think, about working with any group where the organisers
appeared to us to have ulterior motives. That, I must say, is
very rare; the majority of the groups that come to us and that
we are in correspondence already with are very well-motivated
organisations. There are huge numbers of people in Northern Ireland
doing very, very good work, on a whole range of issues, some of
which are directly relevant to the issues we have been discussing,
and we want to do everything we can to support them.
Mr McCabe: Thank you very much, Mr McQuillan.
102. Good afternoon, Mr McQuillan. Before we
come on to the question I was going to ask, just following on
from what Mr McCabe said, in September 1999, there was a major
rally at the Ulster Hall, between 1,500 and 2,000 people were
present, at which both Sir John Herman and Sir John Gorman, whom
you obviously know well, were speakers, along with John Taylor
and Jeffrey Donaldson. At that time, Vincent McKenna was also
a speaker on the same stage, along with, I believe, Charles Moore,
the Editor of The Daily Telegraph. At that time, of course,
McKenna was representing something called the Northern Ireland
Human Rights Bureau; and in your response to Mr McCabe you may
wish to include that organisation, because the impression that
Mr McKenna gave, strongly, was that he was working with the RUC,
certainly at that meeting, on that night, and through some of
his work with the Human Rights Bureau. I seem to remember, at
that meeting, according to the news report at the time, Jeffrey
Donaldson entered the hall to a rousing, tumultuous, standing
ovation, and I am sure he must be used to that, but we will not
perhaps mention it again today. But could I just go on to the
question I wanted to ask, which is a slightly technical question,
and I am very grateful for the detail of the information you have
given us. The idea of people being forced from their homes is
not exclusive to Northern Ireland, it happens in my constituency,
it happens throughout the rest of the world. Where it does happen,
the police then have a problem of the empty property, and I am
just wondering, in terms of operational procedure, what do your
officers do in such a case to prevent looting, theft, trespass,
vandalism or illegal reoccupation of the property?
(Mr McQuillan) In general, I do not think illegal
reoccupation is a major problem in Northern Ireland; that would
normally be dealt with by the Housing Executive. What we would
do would depend upon the area; if we were working closely with
the local housing office and there was a problem, we would do
everything we could to support them, and we would encourage them
to relet the property as quickly as possible. Together with the
Housing Executive, we have actually recently taken an initiative
in this area, in that, in preparation for the new Community Safety
Strategy, we now have a police officer working full-time in the
Housing Executive. And her role is to work with them on making
sure that we have joint policies in areas like this, so that we
are working together not only to deal with the problems on estates,
rehabilitate the estates, deal with those sorts of issues, and
that they make sure that the activities are co-ordinated, that
our policies are consistent and that we are sharing information.
103. Could I ask the officer's rank?
(Mr McQuillan) She is a sergeant.
104. And does she have any support staff?
(Mr McQuillan) No.
105. And she covers the six counties of Northern
(Mr McQuillan) Yes; but her role is to look at the
problems and develop policy, with joint policies. The implementation
of those policies will then be at local level, and from April
of next year that will be through the 29 district commands.
106. Right; so she can call up resources, in
line with policy directives?
(Mr McQuillan) Yes. She can make sure the two organisations
are working hand in hand at the senior levels, that the right,
joint policies are in place and implementation of those is then
a matter for local delivery.
107. Thank you. My second question makes me
realise that the worldwide reputation for the RUC in skilled analysis
and detection is not a false one, because you managed to answer
the question before I actually got round to asking it. I was going
to ask you a question, following on from the comments in your
memorandum about designing out areas of conflict, and you very
kindly gave us the information that this was more than just the
so-called `peace line' between the Shankill and the Falls, it
also involved hedges, so you cannot see who your neighbours are,
and various other things. In your memorandum, you referred specifically
to sectarian attacks in North Antrim and, I think, Larne. One
of the things that concerned many of us, in reading your report,
was that the expression "long term options to design out
areas of conflict" actually freezes the situation as status
quo. Now, designing out areas of conflict can mean different
things to different people. Do you mean entirely as a protective
device to prevent two communities committing illegal acts on each
other, or is there a longer-term agenda in design, but the RUC
is involved in?
(Mr McQuillan) In terms of longer-term agenda, we
see working with community groups on both sides of the community,
the sectarian divide, in Northern Ireland, as critical to building
arrangements for the future. We do, however, have areas of conflict,
and if some of those rubbing points between different areas can
be designed out in the short to medium term then we believe that
is an appropriate course of action. It is not simply a matter
of accepting and preserving the status quo, the reality
is, if we do not do that, then the short-term conflicts may actually
undermine longer-term solutions.
108. Sorry; the expression you used was "rubbing
points", was it?
(Mr McQuillan) Yes. I mean physical rubbing points,
arranged by the two communities coming into contact with each
other, coming into direct contact with each other, where there
are tensions. Now very often the communities come into direct
contact with each other and there are no tensions, they live with
each other perfectly normally, as they would in any other part
of the UK; but there are areas where there are particular problems,
and in those sorts of areas we would try to develop schemes, or
work with others who are trying to develop schemes, to reduce
those. A major part of that, and the long-term solution, has to
be working with the community representatives on both sides so
that we actually get away from the causes of conflict, we start
to develop relationships and trust; but we do still have the problem
of the short-term issues that we really do need to address.
109. But the `designing out conflict' option
is permanent, is it not? I appreciate the `peace walls' come down,
but are you talking about, in as much as anything can be permanent,
(Mr McQuillan) In some cases, yes; not necessarily,
but in some cases yes. It might not be just physical barriers.
For example, if there is a problem of sectarian conflicts around
school buses, it might involve working to ensure that the schedules
are right, so that the opportunities for conflict do not arise.
So there are all sorts of things that one can do. I think we have
to be flexible and imaginative, in some of these issues. But the
reality is, if you have a situation where two groups are coming
together and they are frequently in conflict then, in our experience,
it is extremely difficult to develop long-term solutions, because
the reality is the short-term friction will undermine your efforts.
110. Thank you. Your keen detective's eye will
doubtless have noticed that Mr Hunter is writing with a lurid
orange pen, where I have a green pen; can I say that this is not
in any way indicative of any lack of objectivity on our part,
and I am sure we would both be united in thanking you for your
(Mr McQuillan) Sir, might I make one point, in relation
to the rally in the Ulster Hall. You will have noted that there
was no representative of the RUC at that rally.
111. No currently-serving member of the RUC,
that is correct.
(Mr McQuillan) There was no representative of the
RUC at that rally, nor, Sir, did the RUC, necessarily, as an organisation,
support or agree to that rally.
112. I was not aware of that. I have to say,
the presence of two of the most senior former serving officers
of the RUC may have given that impression.
(Mr McQuillan) Officers have the right, once they
are retired, to do what they wish. I just wish to point out that
the organisation was not represented at that time.
113. I think Sir John Gorman actually was elected
as an MLA, was he not?
(Mr McQuillan) I think so, Sir, yes.
Mr Pound: Thank you very much indeed.
Chairman: I am looking forward to the possibility
that the same liberality will extend to politicians in retirement.
Mr Clarke: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Mr Pound
has made me aware that my pen is an even deeper shade of green,
but I think it is probably Lincoln green.
Mr Beggs: There are 40 shades.
114. Mr McQuillan, I am sure the Committee can
well understand the difficulty you have with precise figures,
but one of your comments earlier on, when we were talking about
criminal activity and intimidation related to criminal activity,
particularly in areas dominated by paramilitary organisations,
you said that there had been a massive increase. And, I think
it would be fair to say, in many of the answers to the questions,
you have focused your views on criminal activity within those
areas dominated by paramilitary organisations, be they through
feuds or be they for other reasons. For the record, what prevents
the RUC getting a stronger handle on criminal activity, such as
drug supply and protection rackets, within those areas?
(Mr McQuillan) I think there is a series of issues
there; again, it is a complex issue. One of the reasons why I
have taken the line that I have is, in my written memorandum,
at paragraph 30, we show, for example, the pattern of paramilitary
shootings, and that shows very significant increases over the
last few years, and, indeed, that there are signs that, for example,
on the Republican side, those are turned on and off like a tap
for various political reasons; when they wish to make a point,
they go up. In terms of keeping control of crime, and why the
RUC has not been able to deal with that as effectively, as I said,
first of all, Northern Ireland has a relatively low level of reported
crime, and I think the British Crime Survey would tend to support
the view that it actually has a relatively low level of crime
compared with the rest of the UK. So it is not a question that
crime is out of control. The key to resolving problems of crime
in any community is to work with the community to address the
real problems, and there is no doubt that in some areas there
are barriers to doing that. It is one thing to work with the community
in dealing with crime in their area where the criminals are individuals
living in the area, it is quite another where there are organised
paramilitary groups. On both sides of the community in Northern
Ireland, these organisations are basically organised crime syndicates,
they are involved in massive levels of organised crime, ranging
from smuggling, counterfeiting, they smuggle fuel, alcohol, tobacco,
intimidation, extortion, armed robbery, hijacking of high-value
goods; that is how they make their money, and they run it as a
commercial business. I think we share the problems, as any of
our colleagues on the mainland, in the rest of the UK, do, or,
indeed, the Irish Republic, in terms of breaking into those sorts
of cartels; it is extremely difficult, it is extremely difficult
to get witnesses, and that means that we are forced to rely on
intelligence and pre-emptive operations now. We are quite successful
in that, but it does mean it limits our ability to deal with those
crimes. We need to build up to a situation where people are more
prepared to assist us in communities across Northern Ireland and
have the confidence that they can do so, and that is our objective.
115. I think it is quite obvious what the physical
barriers are to you carrying out an effective police policy within
certain areas, but if we take your comments, where you said earlier
on that Northern Ireland, rightly so, is a pretty law-abiding
Province, in the main, does that not mean it should be easier
for you to focus your attention on cutting off drug supply to
those areas where there is the majority of the problem?
(Mr McQuillan) We have done that; and one of the difficulties
is, the crime problems in Northern Ireland are not spread uniformly
across Northern Ireland. The reality is that the vast majority
of the Province is a very, very low crime area, and the crime
problems are at their peak in the areas where the paramilitaries
are probably strongest; so that is the general pattern, so the
two go hand in hand. In terms of cutting off the supply of drugs,
I believe we have been quite successful in that. If you look at
the figures for arrests in connection with drugs then, again,
we, I think, are showing significant increases year on year. Particularly,
we have focused recently, in the last two years, on heroin, and
again we have been very successful in that, we have made a number
of seizures; but the reality is that the organised groups are
involved in drug-smuggling and if we cut off one source of supply
they will resupply from another source. And, therefore, it maintains
a consistent effort, it is really basically an issue of attrition
of those groups to wear them down to the point where they cannot
continue functioning in that way.
116. I think that is probably a mix of encouraging
and not so encouraging news?
(Mr McQuillan) I think it is encouraging. I think
there is a real opportunity there to drive this forward; and,
indeed, the Minister of State, Mr Ingram, has recently taken a
very strong and very personal interest in this, and is attacking
that problem with his, if I may say so, Sir, customary vigour,
and we will be delighted to play a part in that.
117. Thank you. Just moving on. Paragraph 32
of your memorandum paints a very depressing picture indeed of
the reluctance of individuals to co-operate with the police, and
it goes further because it talks about their willingness to co-operate
with the attackers, usually, with those who hand out beatings,
with people reporting to be beaten. What initiatives does the
RUC plan, or are carrying out at present, to seek to overcome
(Mr McQuillan) I think all that we can do to try to
overcome that is to build public confidence, first of all, in
the overall police service, to undermine the willingness of the
wider community to tolerate this type of activity in their communities.
I believe the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland wish
to see a normal civil society, and part of a normal civil society
is a criminal justice system that deals with people by due process,
and an effective police service to ensure that those people are
brought before the courts, with proper evidence. I think our objective
is to develop our service, to provide the best possible service
we can, to provide the most effective service we can, and to undermine
any level of support that there is within communities for those
types of atrocities. That is the only long-term solution to this.
At the same time, through that, we believe that we can obtain
higher levels of support from communities in the most difficult
areas and that we can then translate that into further undermining
the position of these paramilitary groups. It will not be easy,
it is a long-term issue, but I believe we have to push that through.
118. Would it be reasonable, therefore, to say,
if that is the long-term view, that, for the foreseeable future,
policing, in a sense, in some parts of Northern Ireland, is still
very much in the hands of the paramilitaries?
(Mr McQuillan) No, I would not say that policing was
very much in the hands of the paramilitaries. The paramilitaries
use these beatings, these attacks, as a means of exerting control;
and one of the reasons that we believe that the number of attacks
is going up is that the paramilitaries, in some senses, feel things
slipping away from them. And, in some senses, paradoxically, that
might be a positive thing, that they are concerned about maintaining
their position, as they see it, within communities. I think we,
as a police service, have to work very closely with people on
all sides of the community, from all areas, to try to further
undermine that and try to further undermine with the confidence
in and support for the police service of Northern Ireland.
119. One last question, in respect of paragraph
29 of the memorandum, which talks about victims committing alleged
offences, they have no trial and no appeal. Whilst accepting that
as fact, would you comment on reports that are fed to us, as a
Committee and as individuals, that in some parts of Northern Ireland,
particularly those estates dominated by paramilitary organisations,
there are illegal trials, or trials of sorts, where individuals
are asked to report to officers of paramilitaries to undertake
a form of trial, or to have their crimes read to them?
(Mr McQuillan) I think there is a series of issues
there. There are, in a number of areas, or there have been set
up in a number of areas, what are euphemistically called `restorative
justice schemes'; some of them established by individuals with
very good intent and good bona fides, who are interested
in this area and believe it is a way forward, and others where
there may be a paramilitary element in them. So that is one element
to it, which is a sort of an attempt to create a parallel criminal
justice system. Additionally, there are suggestions that there
have been almost kangaroo courts held. In our experience, quite
frankly, the kangaroo courts do not happen, individuals are quite
simply contacted and told that "it has been decided that
you have done something; you are to be punished for it,"
and they are given the option of reporting and having the punishment
carried out, or, alternatively, they are simply taken out of their
home one night, or men have raided their home, and just beaten
up, or shot. There is no attempt whatsoever to put any sort of
gloss on the attack.