I'm seriously bad when it comes to remembering details - I should have kept a diary - but I do recall one Monday morning a group of people calling to my office when I was Editor of the Derry Journal. All I know is that it was some time after the first Drumcree Protest had erupted, so I'm going for around July 1995. Anyways, these folks came and told me they were going to the Stand Road barracks to make a complaint about the thuggery of the RUC in regard to an incident that had witnessed in the city centre.
"So why are you calling with me...surely you should go ahead and make the complaint?" I observed.
Believe me, I wasn't exactly going to hold the front page in regard to a complaint about the RUC; in news terms it was a zero, right up there with a black man in Alabama complaining about the Ku Klux Klan.
"Mr. McArt," came the response, "we know the minute we make a complaint against them they'll charge us with some offence or other. We are calling with you to have it on the record that we have not been charged with anything, that this is a legitimate complaint."
Two or three hours later sure enough, I got a call from one of my earlier visitors to inform me they had indeed been charged with, if I recall accurately, 'obstructing police in the execution of their duty' . It was a totally trumped-up, totally spurious charge. No validity whatsoever.
I was watching Denis Bradley, the former Policing Authority Vice Chairman, on BBC's Spotlight a week or two back when he was interviewed in regard to the comments of former PSNI man, Peadar Heffron who told the former Derry Gaelic star turned sports columnist/pundit, Joe Brolly, he was 'very bitter' about the fact he had been shunned by his former colleagues in the Creggan Kickhams GAA club after he was massively injured in a bobby trap car bomb, carried out by dissident republicans in 2010.
The Co. Antrim man, now confined to a wheelchair, said only two representatives of the club showed up at the family home while he was still in a coma to express good wishes to his family for his recovery, but even they went out of their way to say they were visiting 'in a personal capacity' not as official representatives of the club. Even his childhood friends, he explained, had deserted him when he joined the PSNI.
Denis suggested we, as a society, need to do better than this, that we needed to move on. I'm paraphrasing but, basically, what he said was that there's a new dispensation in policing and we need to accept that.
I agreed with Denis's sentiment, not his analysis. It ain't going to happen, not any time soon anyway.
Let me tell you why. I go walking a lot around Inishowen and, inevitably, you meet a Derry man or a Derry woman you know from back in the day. When you get into discussion it's amazing how many of them still don't trust the police. They haven't moved on, and won't move on until the day the coffin lid is shut. They don't buy for a second that putting on a hat with a different badge changes the mindset in the head under that hat. For many, the PSNI is just another name for the old RUC; the leopard might be different, but the spots are still the same.
I would suggest you can have all the surveys on the BBC or the Belfast Telegraph that producing warm and fuzzy findings as to how acceptable the PSNI have become but the reality is very different. That's a legacy issue that is not about to change any time soon.
We had friends home from Australia for a few weeks during the summer, George and Colleen Hudson, both from out beyond Altnagelvin but now well over 40 years in Adelaide. Lovely, lovely people. One thing they wanted more than anything was to get a few pictures outside various pubs with funny names. Apparently, their friends back in Oz just absolutely love this whole Irish pub thing, so we ended up outside 'The Squealin' Pig in Muff and we went all the way to Bundoran just to get a pic outside 'The Kicking Donkey'. They really got a kick out of that, no pun intended.
It sorted reminded me that the Irish pub is very much part of our culture, and we have exported it right across the world. Some of the names are just something else too. In Auckland, New Zealand's there's one called 'The Dog's Bollix'. I was in one in Alicante called 'The Randy Leprechaun'. I recall being told there is a bar called O'Che's somewhere on the planet - check it out for yourselves - while the cleverest pun name is a bar in China called 'The Paddy Field'.
How about some money
The Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council, John Kelpie, disclosed last year that 40% of passengers using the City of Derry Airport, which his council funds, are from Donegal. Something tells me he will now be looking for a subvention from Donegal Co. Council because they (the airport) are not coming up roses in terms of financial solvency; the opposite would be more the case. The only problem - and it's a rather significant problem - facing Mr. Kelpie is Donegal Co. Council has no money to give him.
I swear I'm a genius!
UTV correspondent, Mark McFadden, once wrote a piece where he suggested when it came to swearing I had brought it up to 'industrial level'. My poor mother was broke to the bone. I wish she were alive today so I could tell her latest research suggests swearing, staying up too late and being messy are signs of high intelligence. If that's so just call me Einstein.....Patrick Francis Einstein.
A study for 'Psychology Today' has found that night owls tend to out perform the early risers. That swearing is not a sign of a poor vocabulary; rather the opposite. And the refusal to tidy your desk meant your mind was away somewhere else, somewhere more creative. They used to find cups of coffee on my desk that could have provided a cure for cancer...
What's odd is that when I was a student in St Eunan's in Letterkenny - think St. Columb's with Alacatraz thrown in - none of the teachers there found this genius - i.e. me - hiding amongst their ranks.
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