The discovery of a military tracking device on a workman’s van led to an attack on a Craigavon republican at his home as Crown force personnel brutally attempted to retrieve the device.
The van had been placed on a ramp for routine repairs when the high-tech device, encased in black rubber, was discovered concealed beneath a wheel arch. It contained a long life battery pack and is marked with a British military serial number.
As the device was being examined at around 1.30pm, a Crown force operation moved swiftly into the estate and began carrying out searches.
Republican Sinn Fein said that within a matter of minutes, MI5 (British military intelligence) and “every breed” of police had invaded the home of local party member Eddie Breen to demand to know where the tracking device was. Mr Breen was badly beaten and tasered in what rapidly became a violent assault.
Such surveillance devices, and the covert operations used to install or remove them, have been a hallmark of the conflict since the 1970s.
The device in question is said to be similar to one planted by the British army under the car of another Craigavon man, John Paul Wootton. Evidence from that tracker was used to controversially convict Mr Wootton on IRA charges in May 2012, but not before potentially exculpatory data on the device was “accidentally” deleted by the British Army. Mr Wootton’s conviction has been appealed and is currently awaiting judgement.
Meanwhile, newspaper reports have claimed that republican activists are under the most intense surveillance ever as the British Crown forces desperately seek justification to take key figures “off the street”.
Listening devices are said to have been planted in places frequently visited by surveillance targets, including open spaces and locations in the 26 Counties, and even on items of clothing and on clothing belonging to family members.
The Craigavon workman, who drove his van around for six months before discovering the surveillance device, said he would contact his lawyer about the incident.
Republican Sinn Fein described the incident as “sinister” and said it showed conclusive proof that military intelligence were active in the north Armagh area.
“The injuries inflicted afterwards speak for themselves,” RSF said. “Let it be noted that this kind of injustice has been the hallmark and consistency of British rule in Ireland. Against it we stand firm and we shall expose it at every junction. We will not be purchased or intimidated.”