Not that long ago Anthony McIntyre would have wanted to put a bullet in the
back of a Chief Constable's head. To an IRA member, the only good cop was a
dead cop, and Northern Ireland's most senior policeman would have been a
McIntyre's first experience of police was at 14 when he was arrested in the
middle of the night at his home in Belfast's Lower Ormeau: "I was thrown
into a jeep on top of another 14-year-old. I was slapped and punched during
interrogation. I didn't expect that. I've hated the cops most of my life. If
I could have developed a nuclear bomb and dropped it on them, I would have."
Yet this week McIntyre, who has spent 18 years in jail for murder and IRA
membership, visited Police Service of Northern Ireland headquarters to
interview the Chief Constable, Hugh Orde.
Now a member of the National Union of Journalists, McIntyre and his wife,
Carrie Twomey, edit an online republican magazine, the Blanket. McIntyre
wanted to question Orde from a "radical, republican perspective". The Chief
Constable, who has adopted an "open door" policy, agreed to the interview,
even though it will inevitably outrage unionists.
"What I have learned here is that, whoever you speak to, it upsets someone.
We will wait and see who this upsets," Orde told McIntyre. He said it was
"important to understand everyone's history if you are going to police
them". But convincing republicans, after decades of conflict, to support the
police won't be easy.
"I saw how the police let loyalists attack our homes," says McIntyre. "I
saw how they beat civil rights' protestors off the streets, how they shot
dead nine-year-old Patrick Rooney as he lay in his bed in Divis Flats.
"As a young person, you always knew they could murder you and get away with
it. They were the enemy. I thought hell wasn't hot enough for them."
In 1977, when he was 19, McIntyre was sentenced to life for the murder of
UVF man Kenneth Lenaghan. He spent over three years on the Blanket protest
in the H-Blocks.
"I was guilty but dozens of people I met weren't. They were there because
the cops had beaten 'confessions' out of them. We sat in jail seething as we
watched police attack republican funerals and kill children with plastic
bullets. I thought they were bastards and fuckers.
"When I got out of jail in 1992, I was constantly harassed. I was stopped
taking the kids to school, I was hauled out of black taxis." McIntyre
believes the peace process is a capitulation of republican ideals but is
opposed to any armed campaign by any republican group: "The war is over and
the Brits won. When I met Hugh Orde, I was meeting the head of a victorious
police force; he was meeting a former member of a defeated army."
In the interview, McIntyre asked Orde if the new Police Service of Northern
Ireland represented the disbandment of the RUC. Orde replied: " On
4/11/2001, the name changed. It has got a different name." But he stressed
that 1,000 new officers had been recruited: "I can't see any other
organisation in Northern Ireland that has moved as quickly as we have in
terms of reorganising and restructuring."
He admitted that in an organisation as big as the PSNI, "we have good cops
and bad cops". McIntyre asked how republicans could trust the force when so
many Special Branch officers remained.
Orde said more officers from Special Branch had left in recent years than
from any other part of the force: "Those would no doubt be officers of all
abilities from the outstanding to those any organisation would be happy to
see the back off. Because that's the spectrum of people we have in this
"The vast majority of cops I've had dealings with since I've been here do
not cause me concern. If they did I would do something about it." He did
not accept that collusion between police and loyalists had been endemic. He
voiced commitment to investigating any alleged collusion: "If the evidence
takes us to difficult places, we go into difficult places."
Orde acknowledged the Provisional IRA had "moved on" - "they haven't
attacked my people, they haven't attacked soldiers". He said it was only a
matter of time before Sinn Féin joined the Policing Board: "In terms of
democratic control of policing, it should happen. They have a substantial 24% of the vote."
Orde denied allegations of police forensic malpractice in several Real IRA
cases. He also rejected claims of government interference in his decisions.
He admitted there was the "odd racist" in PSNI ranks but pledged such
individuals would be disciplined. A third of new PSNI recruits are women
and Orde said his target was to have 26% female officers, compared
to the UK average of 17%.
So was McIntyre convinced that policing in the North is changing? "Hugh
Orde is personable, witty and intelligent. He is a man of ability with good
organisational skills. He gave me no reason to doubt his personal honesty,"
"Orde is not part of the old RUC macho culture of hatred and bigotry. But
he doesn't have to be. His predecessors were driven by the need to defeat
the IRA. By his time, the IRA had already been defeated.
"He is just as political as other Chief Constables but in a different way
because British government needs are different. The 1980s produced its man
of the moment, the peace process has done likewise. Jack Hermon was a
hard-nosed, no-nonsense peeler to deal with the hunger-strike period. The
Thatcher government's war on republicanism required brute force.
"Hugh Orde is the cop to adopt a softly-softly approach to bring Sinn Féin
onto the Policing Board. That's what the Blair government needs. Today
policing must be more like chess than a boxing match. But the job of both
Hermon and Orde is the same - to stabilise Northern Ireland and perpetuate
its existence as part of the British state."
McIntyre no longer hates the police "but they remain my opponents and they
need to be challenged and held to account". He claims that minimum
requirements for nationalists would have been the disbandment of the RUC and
a new police force organised regionally with no centralised authority.
Northern Ireland clearly isn't a "police state", he says: "The PSNI are more
accountable than the RUC and that's welcome. But a whole panoply of
repressive legislation remains on the statute book and can be used at any
"The police are still capable of brutality. Last year, I watched them baton
kids in an anti-war protest outside Belfast City Hall. The hatred on their
faces was the same as you once saw at IRA funerals. You knew they wanted to
hit and hit hard."
McIntyre predicts Sinn Féin will imminently sign up to the Policing Board
but says he will never support the PSNI and wouldn't want his children to
join it: "A republican choosing to wear the uniform of a British police
force is as incongruous as a prisoner putting on a prison officer's uniform
during the H-Block protest.
"The religion of police officers is irrelevant, it's the state they serve
that matters. If all the screws in jail had been Catholic would Bobby Sands
have lived? Seamus's boot can be every bit as vicious as Mervyn's.
"Every house I've lived in since 1972 has been raided. I'm not a member or
supporter of any armed group but last year 33 police Land Rovers and over
100 officers took part in a raid on my home.
"They seized the computer, mobile phones and other stuff. They were very
civil and courteous and eventually the equipment was returned. But from a
republican viewpoint that doesn't matter: they are still the raiders and we
are still the raided."