Amidst a standing room only crowd at Rocky Sullivan's pub, the merits
of Provisional Sinn Fein's decision to encourage republicans to join the
British police force was hotly debated. Arguing against the decision were
John McDonagh and Sandy Boyer, producers of the New York based radio program
Radio Free Eireann. Arguing in support of the decision were political
activist Liam Nellis and Larry
Zaitschek, who is currently fighting
Sandy Boyer opened the debate by arguing that the only way to change the
corrupt British police force was by remaining outside of the British system.
Liam Nellis responded to that argument by stating that the people of
northern Ireland deserved a police force that would protect them, and the
only way that it could be achieved would be by joining the force, and trying
to create change from within.
John McDonagh countered that argument by stating that when Nelson Mandela
was released from jail he did not urge people to join the Afrikan police
force, but worked towards creating a new political state with a new police
force. He argued that the republicans who joined the British police force
would become part of the effort to enforce British rule, which would include
spying on fellow republicans, arresting them and testifying against them in
Larry Zaitschek, wearing a shirt that said "The P.S.N.I. are still holding
my son hostage," argued that while he knew that the British police force was
corrupt, he believed that the only option for change was to have republicans
join the police force to find out who the bad officers are, and report them.
Members of the audience were then given the opportunity to make brief
statements. Although divided in views, without exception all speakers
acknowledged the corruption within the British police force.
Final comments were then made by the debaters. Liam Nellis read a letter
from a former republican prisoner, who stated that he did not want to see
any more violence, and thought that joining the British police force was the
only option available. John McDonagh ended the debate by pointing out that
in the course of the 800 year struggle for independence, trying to become
part of the corrupt establishment had been tried, and had failed. He told
the audience that there were many republicans currently running for office,
including Peggy O'Hara, mother of Hunger Striker Patsy O'Hara, who, if they
won a seat, would abstain from sitting, and continue to fight politically
without becoming part of the British regime. He spoke of the support in New
York for the candidates that were running on a platform of opposition to
joining the British police force, and against the Stormont government.