By Phil Mac Giolla Bháin
What do you call a scandal that already has “gate” in the name?
“Gallowgategate” doesn’t do it for me, but what happened last Saturday a few hundred metres from Glasgow Cross was a scandal.
As with all scandals there is an element of chance and timing in what transpired and so it would seem with this…err…event.
Robocop was in town expecting a fascist rally to produce some counter demo agro.
A riot was predicted, but it didn’t happen.
All tooled up and nowhere to go there were suddenly more resources on the street than they knew what to do with.
The police knew that the Celtic supporters group the Green Brigade planned to march to Celtic Park without having applied for permission to the appropriate authorities.
A journalist colleague of mine decided to go down and look at what size of crowd had assembled.
She was accompanied by her 73 year old father and their intention was to go to the Celtic match against Aberdeen.
As the police started to manoeuvre around the crowd at the Gallowgate she got onto a short wall to have a look at what was happening.
She felt a push on her back and suddenly she was in the crowd.
Her father was also pushed, probably by the same policeman, and they were in the “kettle”
Suddenly they found that their liberty had been denied them as they were surrounded by police officers.
She sent me a text to tell me that she and her father were being corralled in by the police.
I immediately thought work and that she was on the spot for a story.
I called her and asked she had her NUJ Press Card with her.
The line was really bad, mobile to mobile and the background noise was substantial.
We were reduced to shouting at each other.
When she repeated back the word “Press Card” to me I suddenly heard a male voice at the other end of the line.
The line went dead and when I called back again she told me that the policeman standing beside her had suddenly become attentive and polite when the magic words were used.
Perhaps, and it is only supposition on my part, that the police officer had enough nous to know that having a journalist in the “kettle” wasn’t such a good idea.
For an hour in the rain Angela and her 73 year old father were detained without charge by the police.
She was told to take down the hood on her jacket.
If you would meet these two people then they don’t immediately come across as a threat to state security.
Her eye witness account of the event is here this piece had over 30,000 hits within the first 24 hours.
The following day she followed up with a scoop about the lack of official permission for the anti-fascist rally.
Angela edited my book “Downfall” about Rangers and is performing the same role in my next book about anti-Irish racism in Scotland.
Her involvement in the Gallowgate incident and the glee of some officers on the spot could fit within one of the later chapters of that forthcoming title.
Certainly a police officer on social media recently offered the opinion that his interaction with Celtic supporters could be characterised as “pest control”.
If the police in Scotland had serious oversight then his career should be over.
If the first casualty in any war is truth then the second one is often language.
Terms like “police state” and “fascist storm troopers” were thrown about with less rigour than a student union common room.
Modern Scotland does not pass muster as a police state, but these words are being written only a few miles from a part of the United Kingdom that from its creation in 1922 definitely was such a polity.
The Northern Ireland statelet was created on the basis of social exclusion, structural discrimination against the catholic minority and unaccountable policing.
When the Good Friday Agreement was being constructed policing was at the heart of the negotiations.
I remarked to a friend on Saturday night that if the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had conducted the Gallowgate operation then a career or two might well be damaged if not over.
That is perhaps because the PSNI often have to deal with REAL rioters.
In the past few months Northern Ireland has saw loyalists demonstrations and street disturbances around the decision of Belfast City Council to only fly the Union flag on designated days.
Heretofore the British flag has flown from City Hall every day for over a century.
The PSNI have had to deal with multiple incidents at any given time.
Roads have been blocked; buildings attacked and on one occasion a female PSNI officer was attacked in her patrol bar with petrol bombs.
She narrowly escaped with her life.
During all of this no one was “kettled” and, thankfully, no one was killed.
The PSNI operate under an oversight regime that Strathclyde’s finest would consider a police state.
The First Police Ombudsman of the new dispensation was Nuala O’Loan.
It is fair to say that she put manners on the new force from her appointment at 1999 until he left the post in 2007.
The good old boys of the RUC (many of them since put out to grass) were shocked at the powers of her office which included the ability to arrest PSNI officers and seize evidence.
This truly is policing the police.
Given the history of the Royal Ulster Constabulary nothing else would have enticed Republicans to sign up to the new deal.
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” is an entirely legitimate question for any democratic society at any time.
Michael McMahon MSP remarked that Kenny MacAskill’s response was almost verbatim what had been said to the Bellshill politician the previous evening by a senior Strathclyde cop.
If the police and the politicians are in too cosy a relationship then it is for the Fourth Estate to look into this relentlessly.
So far in Scotland the mainstream media’s reportage of the Gallowgate incident has been little more than the regurgitating of the police press statements.
There is of course an alternative view from a qualified journalist and NUJ member who was actually on the spot and got exclusive copy.
So far Angela Haggerty has been contacted by Al Jazeera, and Australian media organisation and the Irish Post.
So her copy is considered good enough for Arabs, Australians and the Irish in Britain, but not for readers in Scotland
The role of social media in providing an alternative narrative to the police spin has been telling.
Once more the mainstream media seems determined to continue their descent into irrelevancy.
If the police, politicians and the media are all agreed that the cops are just wonderful then the use of the term “police state” doesn’t start to look so fanciful.
If a police career isn’t even dented by this fiasco then people in Scotland should start to worry.