I doubt whether the republicans in Northern Ireland refer to the police as Bobbies, but at least they have just voted to support and recognize them.
This will mean that they will be part of community initiatives, sit on local police boards and, I suppose, dial 999 when they have a problem.
But one wonders over all these years, who did republicans call when their handbag was stolen? When a drunk driver caused injury to a child? When youths broken into the house and wrecked everything, just for fun?
Sean Sexton is a notable collector of early Irish photographs and staunchly republican sympathiser. I asked him this question once many years ago in the Toucan in Soho Square.
“We phone the police, of course.”
“But don’t you hate the police?”
“Now that depends on why you want to call them!”
But then, republican or no, Sean had lived in London a long time. He also added that if it were a really bad crime, there were always some lads that would sort it out for you.
Still this is a move in, I hope, the right direction.
After the political fighting and the war of words and hate and violence, then we will have the war of trust. I fear that will be a very much longer war than we have had thus far.
I am British, born in London and cannot pretend to understand the really deep undercurrents in Northern Ireland. But I recognise political posturing when I see it. And from all sides I have seen little else over these years. Yes, trust is going to take a long time.
Perhaps if the police were called the Bobbies of Northern Ireland, then people would be more accepting. But then again, Robert Peel, for whom the humble Bobby is named, also established the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1812 when Home Secretary, so perhaps that would be asking a bit much!
Now, to the home office.
I have had an interesting thought that is not to do with Home Office bashing – the sport of the moment, unhelpfully.
One of the arguments against Sarah’s Law is that paedophiles will simply go underground and we will be worse off than we already are. The 300 odd missing people from the register shows how difficult this is to manage (forget the blame game, this is just the practical reality) – and this is a tiny percentage of the numbers who are on the list. If we give them more reason to do vanishing acts, how many will be missing then?