We're delighted that West Belfast man Stephen Magennis has been vindicated in his campaign for justice after an unsavoury incident at an election count centre in 2003.
The whole of the North looked on astonished as the PSNI were filmed live on TV accusing a blameless Mr Magennis of travelling in a stolen car outside a count centre in Dromore. Of course, because Mr Magennis was a Sinn Féin supporter, unionists and loyalists believed they were watching another example of republican bad behaviour. Nationalists and republicans, though, have seen enough stage-managed media events to know one when they see one, and were not in the least bit surprised when a PSNI officer turned up on television later that same day to sheepishly admit that the accusation had been a load of poppycock.
Mr Magennis is a man who does sterling voluntary work in the Colin area, endeavouring to address the problems that face the community. The thanks he got for that was to have his face plastered all over the television and his good name traduced, all because the PSNI simply cannot resist any opportunity to target and denigrate the people of West Belfast.
Instead of just accepting this as part of the price of living in West Belfast, Mr Magennis elected to do something about it. And so he spent over two years battling to clear his name while the PSNI played a game of chicken right up to the courtroom steps. Mr Magennis stayed strong, though, and it was the PSNI which blinked when it made an out of court settlement on the steps of Banbridge courthouse. The exact terms of the settlement have not been made public, but we hope that Mr Magennis has a very happy New Year he deserves it.
Away from the issue of a man wronged and his eventual triumph, there is a wider problem here vis a vis polling and count centres situated in loyalist districts. Dromore is not the safest place for nationalists and republicans to travel to during the white heat of an election campaign, but it's not only Dromore we're talking about. There are a number of other centres which have a chilling effect on would-be nationalist voters. Who is to say how many simply stay away in fear of their lives?
Add to that the disincentive offered by the existing election legislation, and we find that we're living in the only place in Europe that is actively discouraging its people from voting.