In the run-up to Christmas, a Newry tradesman was the subject of the latest failed PSNI attempt to recruit informers, according to the socialist republican party, éirígí.
In a statement, rúnaí ginearálta Breandán Mac Cionnaith said that incident occurred just prior to Christmas.
He said, “This person, who is widely recognised in the Newry area as someone who has been a voluntary community worker in his spare time for many years, works as a self-employed tradesman. In the run-up to Christmas, the man was working at a private house in the Armagh Road area of the city. On the day on which this incident occurred, two men called at the property and said they were both there to look around the property with the owner’s consent and knowledge with a view to possibly renting the house. Both men also named the owner of the property.
“Once inside the house, the two men then introduced themselves as PSNI officers and produced warrant cards confirming their identities before addressing the workman by his first name. They said that they were in a position to do him ‘a favour in return for his cooperation’ if the man was willing to provide information to them. They also produced a large sum of money, which the men said, they were prepared to leave with the tradesman as ‘a sign of their good faith’. The man estimates that the amount was at least £1,000.”
Mac Cionnaith continued, “This workman, although alarmed and obviously frightened for his own safety, told the two plain-clothed PSNI personnel to leave the house immediately otherwise he would call for help from neighbouring houses. When they refused, he began shouting loudly to draw the attention of people in neighbouring homes. At this, the two PSNI officers rushed from the house and made off in an unmarked car.
“The workman then contacted the property owners employing him to ask if they had sent anyone round to view the house. They replied that no-one had been in contact with them.
"Immediately after this, the man contacted our party and informed us of this approach by the PSNI. He has since made a formal statement to lawyers about the incident and those lawyers have also forwarded his statement to an internationally respected human rights’ organisation.”
Mac Cionnaith added, “This is the latest in a whole series of incidents in the Newry area where the PSNI are operating in the same completely unrestrained fashion as the old RUC and Special Branch.
“This latest incident is not unlike other incidents involving the PSNI and MI5 in South Armagh/South Down which were previously exposed and publicised by our party spokesperson for the Newry area, Stephen Murney. It was Stephen’s persistence in exposing such underhand activities by state forces which directly led to his arrest and imprisonment on very spurious and nebulous charges.”
“I would congratulate this man for coming forward and reporting this incident to éirígí and in making a full statement to independent solicitors. I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in the same frightening and invidious position to contact our party immediately.
“Such sinister approaches are more commonplace than most people realise. The vast majority of those being subject to these recruitment attempts by the PSNI and MI5 are not republicans but are, as in this case, ordinary people going about their normal everyday business.
“In view of the increasing frequency of these incidents, one must ask a few simple questions of those constitutional nationalist parties who endorse and support the PSNI – where is the promised change that was designed to stop these practices; where are the so-called accountability mechanisms that were to prevent such incidents; and, ultimately, who has put manners on whom?
Mac Cionnaith concluded, “This policy of attempting to recruit informers and would-be agents is not confined to solely targeting adults.
“The PSNI has previously acknowledged that it also operates a policy of recruiting children and young people as informers. This raises a very pertinent question for boards of governors, school principals, teachers and all those with positions of responsibility within community and voluntary organisations working with children and young people. Can they publicly guarantee that PSNI personnel, who are being gradually introduced into what should be safe and neutral settings for children, are not attempting to recruit any of those children as would-be informers?”
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