A Newry tradesman has been the subject of a failed PSNI attempt to recruit informers, according to the socialist republican party, éirígí. The latest such incident occurred just before Christmas.
The party’s runai ginearalta [General Secretary] Breandan Mac Cionnaith said the self-employed tradesman, who is well-known locally, had been working at a private house in the Armagh Road area of the city when two men called by with a view to ‘renting the house’. Both men named the owners of the property and claimed to have their permission.
Once inside the house, the two men then introduced themselves as PSNI officers and produced warrant cards confirming their identities. 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’.
They also produced a large sum of money, which they said they were prepared to leave with the tradesman as ‘a sign of their good faith’. He estimated that the amount was over a thousand pounds.
The man, who became alarmed and frightened, 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. The two PSNI officers rushed from the house and made off in an unmarked car.
The property owners later confirmed that no-one had been in contact with them.
The recruitment target contacted éirígí before making a formal statement to lawyers about the incident. His lawyers are understood to have forwarded his statement to a human rights organisation.
“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,” said Mr Mac Cionnaith.
He said it bore similarity to other incidents involving the PSNI and MI5 in South Armagh and South Down, which were previously publicised by the 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,” he added.
He also congratulated the targeted individual for his actions in coming forward and reporting the incident and 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,” he said.
“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.”
Mac Cionnaith also warned that the policy of attempting to recruit informers and ‘agents’ was 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,” he said.
“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?”