Ex-terrorists want fast-track promotion to top police jobs

Danielle Ni Dhighe nidhighe at irsm.org
Sun Apr 14 16:11:42 MDT 2002

London Times
14 April 2002

Ex-terrorists want fast-track promotion to top police jobs
By Liam Clarke

Former IRA prisoners would seek entry at senior ranks if they joined
the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The ex-terrorists say
they should be afforded "lateral entry" on account of their extensive
military and command experience.

"Many prisoners are leaders within their community, and it would be
inappropriate for them to join as raw recruits," said Mike Ritchie,
project manager of Coiste na n-Iarchimi, an organisation set up in
1998 to represent released IRA prisoners and promote their
reintegration into society.

Ritchie stressed that most prisoners would not enter the new force
without the go-ahead of Sinn Fein. The party is not yet advising its
supporters to join, but says that is a future aim. It is likely to do
so when it believes the Patten reforms have been implemented in full.

Earlier this year, Coiste sent a delegation to meet Denis Bradley,
the deputy chairman of the police board, which controls the PSNI.
Bradley was broadly in support of changing the legislation to allow
prisoners to join, although SDLP and unionist board members reject
the idea.

The demand that former prisoners be given preferential treatment or
fast-track promotions because of their experience in illegal
organisations will be hard for even liberals such as Bradley to
swallow. Ritchie defended the idea saying: "Many ex-prisoners I know
would make excellent police officers."

He pointed out that lateral entry systems applied in South Africa,
where Umkonto we Sizwe, the military wing of Nelson Mandela's
African National Congress, was virtually merged with the South
African police and defence forces.

Ritchie said: "An OC (IRA officer commanding) at Long Kesh could have
responsibility for 700 people, negotiating on their behalf and
organising them. This represents considerable management experience."

In the Republic, IRA officers were often appointed to lead the garda
in the early days of the state; and a special group, the Broy
Harriers, was set up to accommodate a fresh batch of ex-IRA recruits.

Coiste's other objectives include the quashing of criminal
convictions to allow prisoners to take jobs in other areas currently
closed to them, including the civil service and some areas of the
teaching profession.

In the civil service special arrangements have already been made to
allow convicted terrorists to work on civil service rates of pay as
advisers to Sinn Fein ministers and MLAs.

In the republic, the National Economic and Social Forum has already
recommended that republican prisoners be treated as special cases and
that some criminal convictions be quashed.

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