Friday, November 27, 2009

British army & PSNI repression steps up several gears

In recent years the nationalist parties that sit in the Stormont administration repeatedly told us that we were witnessing a new beginning to policing, demilitarisation and the removal of British troops from the six counties. Such was the extent of that hype that, as the British army ended Operation Banner in the six counties back in 2007, many people proclaimed it as being the end of British armed forces involvement in our country. Events in the small border village of Garrison on the evening of Saturday Nov 21 and elsewhere throughout Fermanagh and the rest of the six-counties recently have shattered what remained of those myths.

The reality is that what we have seen in recent times has been, not the demilitarisation as promised, but the remilitarisation of the six-counties and a staggering increase in political policing and repression. Such militarisation and repression has been particularly intense just across the border in West and South Fermanagh. Just two years after we were supposed to have seen the last of the British army, British troops are mounting road-blocks, raiding homes and farms, intimidating and assaulting people and denying people access to their workplaces The skies above Fermanagh and Tyrone are also being used by Royal Air Force (RAF) and British army air corps pilots carrying out low-level night-time training as they prepare for postings in other war zones such as Afghanistan.

The revelation that the undercover Special Reconnaisance Regiment (SRR) were involved in a joint operation with the PSNI in Garrison last weekend shows once again that the British army are on a war footing and prepared to use whatever military force and terror they deem necessary to maintain its occupation of the six counties. Constitutional nationalist politicians have steadfastly refused to make any comment on the involvement of undercover British troops from the SRR, effectively a British army death squad, continuing to operate on Irish soil despite their claims of demilitarisation having occurred.

Fermanagh is not alone. Throughout the entire six-counties, the apparatus of state repression has stepped up several gears. Over the past twelve months, we have seen the introduction of 28-day detentions - effectively internment on remand, the firing of plastic bullets, the re-deployment of the undercover SRR (if indeed they had ever been removed in the first place) and a major increase in the use of repressive legislation to harass and intimidate nationalists and republicans. Under the 'Terrorism Act' and 'Justice & Security Act' between July and September this year alone there were more than 12,000 stop and search operations carried out by the PSNI, an average of 110 a day, three times the number for the previous quarter and more than the total number for all of 2008.

Amongst those suffering at their hands are political activists, including éirígí members engaged in peaceful protests and other legitimate political activity. A quick read through previous articles on this website will reveal a litany of such incidents, the latest being the stopping and searching of éirígí activists and supporters, on a sponsored walk and protest at a British army Intelligence and Communications post on Black Mountain on the outskirts of West Belfast. The PSNI operation against the 30 or so party supporters who took part in the walk and peaceful protest involved two helicopters, seven armoured jeeps, a number of unmarked cars and up to 30 PSNI riot personnel.

The bottom line is that the British military machine, in any guise, is not welcome in any part of our country. Their military activity and repression, and that of the PSNI, are unacceptable. The silence of politicians on both of sides of the border, especially those nationalist politicians who sit on the six-county policing board, in the face of this increased repression and human rights abuses, is deafening. Its long past time that they faced up to the reality of the PSNI and the continuing British occupation and withdrew their support for both.

éirígí Fear Manach chairperson, Kevin Martin has expressed his outrage at the increasing level of British military activity in the county.

He said: "In recent months, undercover British soldiers, who are most likely attached to the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, have also been active at PSNI checkpoints and in raids in the county. Yet again we are witnessing the consequence of Britain's continued involvement in Ireland. Despite the claims that the British army was going with the ending of Operation Banner in 2007, it is obvious that they are here to stay."

According to éirígí National Chairperson Brian Leeson, "British military operations in Fermanagh or anywhere else on this island are totally unacceptable".

He said: "The London and Dublin governments, as well as the Stormont administration, have all attempted in recent years to "normalise" the occupation. However, there is nothing normal about the British occupation of the Six Counties, the continuing presence of 5,000 British troops in the North of Ireland, a repressive paramilitary police force and the hundreds of MI5 personnel who now mount their operations from a British army base in Holywood in County Down."

He added: "For our part, éirígí will continue to expose the myth of 'normalisation' and to actively oppose the British military presence throughout the six counties. As republican socialists we will oppose the occupation at every opportunity and would urge all those who support the concepts of justice and freedom to do likewise."

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