Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Negotiating with reality

Supt Frank O'Brien has said that the gardai are willing to mediate between criminal gangs in the city if asked to do so.
Some of the more righteous, law-and-order types in Limerick have snorted at this notion in the past and will probably do so again in the future.
If you sit down and talk to them, goes the theory, it gives an indirect legitimacy to what they're doing; a recognition that being murdering, drug dealing bastards gives them power and status to negotiate with the law, as opposed to simply obeying it.
That's a lovely stance to take if you're Thomas Hobbes. But the gardai don't deal in philosophy. Their directive is numbers.
They can stick their fingers in their eyes and state that criminal gangs are no different to street urchins stealing for their dinner, placating the armchair philosophers in this society for whom crime and death are simply reasons to buy the newspaper.
But Supt O'Brien and the rest of the gardai in Limerick have to stop people selling heroin, importing semi-automatic weapons from Spain and shooting others in the head, be they innocent or not.
If negotiating an end to feuding violence is deemed a viable option in the short and medium term, the gardai have a responsibility to do just that.
If some people consider the notion of our police force taking these practical, realistic steps to limiting violence on our streets disturbing, so be it.
But far more is at stake here than middle class morality.


Bock the Robber said...

I'm not Thomas Hobbes, but I still think it's wrong to give these people any legitimacy.

The result of these negotiations will not be to reduce crime, but to redirect it against those of us who happen to abide by the law as a matter of routine.

And far from reducing the importation of heroin from Spain, it will increse the trade if the criminals find themselves able to go about their business without having to watch their backs.

What the Guards are facilitating is not an end to a feud, but a clearer definition of the criminals' areas of operation.

This is in the interests of the criminals who will be free to concentrate on their drug sales, in the interests of the Guards who will be able to claim success in reducing headline crime, and in the interests of the politicians who will claim all the credit.

It's of no benefit whatever to the ordinary citizen who will suffer the consequences from more cocaine and heroin appearing on the streets.

The State was able to squeeze the IRA by clamping down ruthlessly on their activities and it could do the same with these gangs if the political will existed. Instead, it chooses to appease and placate them. This is a foolish strategy, driven by political pressure, and not by sound policing decisions.

Ger Fitzgibbon said...

In a perfect world, of course, we would never even contemplate these kind of discussions. And I fully take on board your point on how the State squeezed the IRA and how these tactics can be replicated.

But I think that when crime has escalated into the levels that it has in this city, and with the general public in the mass media age far more susceptible to headlines and statistics, the first task needs to be making crime less vivid.

I know it's objectionable, and simply throwing a blanket over something doesn't make it go away.

But I think you've hit the nail on the head completely when you mention political pressures.

I would make the case that so long as people are being shot in the streets, the political pressure will cloud any long or medium term strategy by the gardai based on sustained, bottom-up investigations.

They'll be forced from on high to re-direct key resources into showy, pointless ventures like the bloody Armed Response Unit.

If through short-term communication the harder edges can be dulled from this feud, it will allow the gardai to concentrate on actual police work, and not on placating the media and every gombeen mouthpiece who stands for election every five years.

Anonymous said...

It's all very well to say the Guards will negotiate with the gangs but what can the Guards offer as a sop to the drug dealers?
The upshot could only be that instead of two warring gangs you would have one big gang. Gang members might be safer but there are no guarantees for the rest of us.
THe guards should police the streets like any other police force and leave the useless politics to Willie O'Dea et al.