A Derry businessman has said he was approached by members of MI5 while visiting Lithuania earlier this month.
Gerard Doran, proprietor of ‘GD Textyles’ in Derry, was preparing to meet with clients in the lobby of a hotel in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius when two men approached him and asked him to supply information on republican activity in Derry.
“It’s left me in complete shock. I was sitting in the lobby waiting to meet with three clients when these two men, one with an English accent and the other with an Irish accent, came up to me and addressed me by my first name and by my nickname.
“I’d never met these two individuals before so you can imagine how I felt when this happened in the middle of Vilnius.
“The two men were able to tell me where I had been and who I had been meeting over the previous three days. This meant they were following me and how did they know I was going to Lithuania? This is nothing short of harassment.
All I want to do is get on with supporting my family and making a living. I wish they would just leave me alone.”
Mr. Doran, who has no links to any political groups or republican organisations, told the Derry Journal that the encounter in Lithuania is not the first time he suspected MI5 of contacting him.
“It was around about this time last year when I received a phone call. It was a man with an English accent and he explained to me that he wanted to talk to me about certain individuals in Derry. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about and politely asked him to leave me alone.”
Mr Doran said that after arriving back in Derry last week he received another phone call from one of the men he encountered in Lithuania.
“After the encounter with the two men in Vilnius, I took the battery out of my mobile phone in case they were using it to follow me. As soon as I got back to Derry I put the battery back into the phone, charged it and a few hours later one of the men rang me.
“He repeated himself over and over again. He wanted to talk to me about certain individuals in Derry and said he could help me. He even said the three Lithuanian businessmen I’d gone to meet in the hotel lobby in Vilnius weren’t actually Lithuanians. He said they were Russians and I should stay away from them.
“That phone call really spooked me. That’s why I want to tell my story. I’ve nothing to hide whatsoever but I just want these people to leave me alone.
“I am just a businessman trying to support his family and make his way in the world.
“The whole thing is causing me great stress and anxiety. I haven’t told my children about this because I know they would worry - I shouldn’t have to live like this.”
Mr Doran offered his own reason for why he thinks he is being targeted by British intelligence operatives.
“A friend of the family is a well known republican and I would drink with him the odd time - that’s the only explanation I can come up with.
“It’s not a crime to share a drink with a friend so I wish these people would stop hassling me and let me get on with my life,” he said.