On the subject of punishment attacks

These views represent my own thoughts and are not representative of any group or organisation. Paul – UCD FRS

The recent increase in the number of punishment attacks being carried out by republicans has reopened the debate on the necessity for such attacks. They tend to be a polemic issue, sharply splitting opinion at times and often creating controversy. They are viewed as sickening barbarism by a mainstream media unwilling to delve further into the issues surrounding them. I would like to try and clarify some of these issues and offer to the best of my abilities an explanation of the origin of the attacks and a defence of the necessity of them.

The first priority should be to try and define what a punishment attack constitutes. They are in my opinion physical punishments levied on individuals or groups for specific crimes against the community. I do not include internal paramilitary punishments for offences committed within the organisation. The variety of punishments meted out in these attacks varies from getting a few slaps to having serious physical damage inflicted. Yet the fact remains that they are all carried out under the same premise which is that republicans have the right to police their own communities as they see fit. The fact that these punitive measures are more often not carried out at the behest of the community and are proportionate to the offence of the perpetrator is largely irrelevant to the discussion.

For hypothetical purposes I will take up the role of an opponent to these attacks. I would contend that the only legitimate authority is the rule of law. The police forces are the legal enforcers of said law and are therefore entitled to enforce it. The justice system is a fair and equitable one where every citizen receives a fair trial. These views are anathema to republicans because they are not borne out either by our ideology or our experience of events. These are views usually held by people who have not witnessed police murder, intimidation and corruption. These views however are held by people who accept the legitimacy of the state, for that is in truth what this issue centers on whether or not the state has the right to enforce its will on its inhabitants. However let us examine the traditional role republicanism has played as an agent provocateur on the issue. Republicans represent communities that have never accepted the state, have never accepted its police and who are ideologically opposed to the state having any interference in their lives.

Throughout the existence of the six county state various quasi-paramilitary police forces have served to enforce its rule. From the B-specials to the RUC and the current incarnation the PSNI the government has failed in its objective of normalising their occupation through the deployment of a colonial police force. In fact the colonial police forces have more often than not served as a focal point on which resistance concentrates. To expect republicans to endorse these forces is a fundamental paradox. To normalise the state they must criminalise republicanism a process they are currently engaged in with enthusiasm. Therefore it is clear why republicans have traditionally resisted policing by Britain and will continue to do so.

The clear by product of this stance is however that there must be a replacement for traditional policing. This role has more often than not been filled by republican volunteers of various hues. In the tan war the army was able to establish its own courts. These however were only able to exist due to the high level of public support enjoyed. The ability to police ones own community remains contingent to the level of support enjoyed by said organisation. The increase in these attacks indicates a growing rejection of the PSNI and the institutions they represent. The attacks being carried out today are merely the result of organisations filling a vacuum left by the provisional movement.

I would like to address the morality of taking such a stance. It is first vitally important to note that the role of policing communities is hardly one grasped at by republicans. It is rather one foisted upon them by events and necessity. Anti social behaviour is a serious problem almost universally in working class communities. For republicans to have to deal with it means having to detract time and resources from the primary struggle. There are those that argue that the British are happy to see this happen. That is in my opinion a short sighted analysis. The primary requirement for republicans to be able to operate against the occupational forces is to enjoy relative support within the community. To enjoy such support the army must also be responsive to the needs of the community. This was seen historically in the role the provisional’s played as defenders first and foremost during the pogroms of 69. The struggle can never be extended without first securing the base of support. So whilst the short term distractive nature of these operations may be lamented the truth remains stark. That they are necessary if we are to make long term gains.

The actual punishments carried out are often brutal in nature as we are so frequently reminded by the media. I do not deny that. However the perpetrators of anti social crime hold entire communities under sway with their crimes. Burglaries, rape, drug dealing and joyriding constitute a brutality also. A brutality directed against the vulnerable. The critics who argue for rehabilitation of offenders fail to note that punishment beatings are rarely carried out without prior warnings given. They are the culmination of a process which although unsophisticated by the standards of the British justice system, often gets fairer results.

I think there is a clear case to be made for the continuing of republican policing. It is neither the most pleasant nor desirable option for dealing with undesirables within communities. It is however a necessary step in the process of the rejection of the British state and all its apparatus in Ireland.

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2 Responses to “On the subject of punishment attacks”

  1. shea Says:

    thats a well writen piece. the dangers though in punishment beatings are the resourses they soke up. republican volunteers arn’t social workers. they are not skilled to deal with anti social problems. while working class communities are calling out for leadership and this sort of activity is often welcomed, it doesn’t work. a man who makes a living of crime or engages in crime to feed an adiction as the opening voice on porridge used to say ‘views getting caught as a occupational hazzard’. there was an SDLP politician around the time of the height of the provos answered a question were the IRA the police in nationalist working class areas. his reply was ‘yes but the problem is there not very good at it’ and being honest they weren’t. how could they, no training to deal with social problems, no ferencis, no accountability mechanism to prevent people from abuseing it but they worked with what they had, personaly it was possible to justify that in a war situation, and when i say war situation i mean a section of the community giving it every thing they had. mothers daughters fathers sons a whole industrial process geard to an end. thats not happening today.

    communities are still suffering social problems and understandably people still welcome such actions but do they welcome them in the context of an absolutist position on the national question or do they welsome them as victims of anti social behaviour as victims in dublin, london, new york, paris, or berlin would, cities that in terms of economic segregation are identical to the six counties but in terms of political conflict isn’t.

    i’d say most cities in the world the working class communities have an internal culture of people sorting things out for themselves. may not be as visual but its there, its understandable in that everyone wants to feel safe, get retribution and justice. though such actions are not necessary productive and may appese a superficial apitite but thats about it.

  2. karl Fenn Says:

    your article on punishment is indeed interesting reading, the present form of british policing is a corrupted form of expliotation
    there is no justice present in the system, it in reality is a form of
    monatory extortion from the vunerable people to keep a an evil
    minority in jobs for life and pensions the rest of cannot afford to
    pay, I think we all realise Irish and English the british system of
    justice is no good, the judges are masonic ginks who dish out in
    injustice and verbal attacks against their victims in the dock, I was
    never in favour of punishment beatings, but I think we must all now
    realise some people just don’t learn their lesson, especially some
    pedofiles who seem to be constantly let off by the british courts and
    police, probably due to so many of them being perverts, the one good thing is if they are warned about their behaviour and ignore
    the advice, they ethier reform or get what they deserve, of course
    it’s cheap to the tax payer and community, as there is no police
    overtime or pensions to pay, this leaves more money fro the people
    in the community, for such things as education health care etc, I am
    english but would say you are right to get rid of british policing, they
    are becomming more and more corrupt, they are the new enemies
    against democracy, with no regulation apart from a criminal or-
    ganition called the I.P.C.C. a corrupted extention of the police, who
    do everything they can to get peelers involved in crime of the hook,
    I would freely, just give some sound advice, police intelligence on
    any suspect is not to be believed, the british police are now operating corrupted computor systems to destroy the reputations of
    any person taking legal action in the courts, this corruption consists
    of the falsifying of background records of the person, in the form of
    Police Records or other background data, be warned even court
    conviction certificates and state documents are being forged by
    the crown to destoy the validity of evidence against them, they will
    stop at nothing now even forging medical records to win the day in
    court, the british justice system has become a living cancer of well
    lubricated, and quote organised crime and corruption, do not trust
    them under any circumstances, no doubt you know where I’m comming from on this point, I hope you did not mind my comments
    your articles were interesting, I am a photo-journalist with anti-british
    justice views for obvious reasons, and enjoyed reading them.

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