Hamill’s Beat - Can’t we find our own solutions to problems?
Can’t we find our own solutions to our own problems?
That is the question. Whether ’tis better to suffer the indignity of importing England’s answers to our most difficult questions or to struggle to find answers of our own. (Yes, ironically that’s a poor echo of lines from an English writer’s most famous play.)
“An Irish solution to an Irish problem,” was how the Republic’s then health minister, Charles Haughey described his 1979 Health (Family Planning) Act. Little did Charlie realise that his pithy phrase would live on to describe future acts of Irish political expediency. (* See below) That’s unfortunate as we ought to consider trying to find Irish solutions to Irish problems is a good thing.
Sorry, that’s a digression. The point I set out to make was that Sinn Féin and the SDLP were right to hold out against giving Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) free reign on this side of the Irish Sea.
Firstly, the NCA isn’t needed here.
We’ve been told the agency is intended to tackle “organised crime”. Isn’t that the PSNI’s job or does it only tackle “disorganised crime”? Do we need two tier policing? Where is the objective evidence for that?
More specifically, two particularly emotive crimes are usually cited to justify calling in Britain’s answer to America’s FBI. The most emotive of these is that women are being trafficked from around the world and held in the North in “wretched conditions,” to quote DUP MLA Jim Wells.
And, the plight of trafficked women has long been his party colleague Lord Morrow’s big preoccupation.
The notion of trafficking poor and vulnerable young women and forcing them to become prostitutes has become an emotive and populist issue.
Of course, trafficking women is evil but the good news is that it’s far, far more uncommon than some populist politicians would like you to think.
The simple fact is that the vast majority of women working in the sex industry haven’t been ‘trafficked’ anywhere.
That probably explains why there have been virtually no prosecutions for the offence.
The other crime usually cited to justify calling in the NCA is “international” drug trafficking. Like the trafficking of women it would be rash to say it doesn’t exist here but it’s far from a priority.
In this parochial corner of the world the vast majority of drug trafficking is much more localised than that.
Yes a new agency may be needed to replace the defunct Criminal Assets Agency (CAA), but that could be set up on a devolved or cross-border basis.
The CAA was effective and it was unclear why it was wound-up. For crimes like diesel laundering it would be useful to have a body to replace it.
Seizing ill-gotten gains is an effective tool against crime lords.
Secondly, the NCA isn’t appropriate here because we are right to avoid yet another tier of policing that isn’t accountable to anyone in Ireland.
(We already have such a problematic layer with MI5 and MI6.) Again it would be far better if we could find an Irish solution to an Irish problem.
*(Of course, Haughey’s Irish solution was particularly timid. A court judgement in the famous McGee case had opened up a legal loophole.
Anyone, “irrespective of his or her age or marital status” could import contraceptives.
What an appalling vista! Charlie’s answer was to legislate to make contraceptives available only to married couples on prescription. How timid was that? Charlie was obviously keen to avoid another metaphorical belt with Dublin’s Archbishop John Charles McQuaid’s crozier.)
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Weather for Derry
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: South west