The PSNI police was justified in attempting to recruit a high-profile County Antrim nationalist as an informer, the Police Ombudsman in the North has found.
Sean Hanna (pictured), chairman of Rasharkin Residents’ Collective which opposes loyal order parades through the nationalist village, told how he was offered cash in a hospital car park as he attended a medical appointment.
He made a complaint to Michael Maguire’s office, claiming he was offered money to provide information about the residents’ group and the 1916 Societies.
However, while the ombudsman’s office has now confirmed the approach was made by police, it has claimed the wads cash produced by the officers was not an “inducement”.
Mr Hanna was approached outside Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast as he attended an appointment earlier this year. At the time, he revealed he was offered “two bundles of cash” he believed contained up to #4,000, but that he refused to accept it.
He said one of the two individuals who approached him spoke with an English accent while the other sounded local. At the time it was suspected they were members of MI5, but it is now thought the PSNI’s C3 intelligence unit - formerly known as Special Branch - was involved.
A second member of the residents’ group has claimed he received a similar approach around the same time.
Mr Hanna, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, said he was surprised to be singled out. He also expressed surprise that the Police Ombudsman did not consider the offer of cash as an “inducement”.
In a letter to Mr Hanna, a Police Ombudsman official said they have “not deemed this to be an inducement to provide information and therefore no misconduct has been identified”.
“I don’t understand - if it is not an inducement, what would you offer someone #4,000 for - nothing?” Mr Hanna said. “It makes no sense at all.”
His lawyer Michael Brentnall said: “Our client is a person of limited means and it is therefore incredulous that they deemed the offer of such, whether implied or explicit, with a promise of ‘more to come’, as not constituting an inducement.”
It is thought the same two men may have made a similar approach to a young student activist earlier this month.
Describing themselves as ‘police officers’, the two men approached him in Belfast city centre and asked could they have a ‘five minute chat’. The two men proceeded to follow him and subsequently asked him questions such as “Do you want dead babies back on our street”.
One of the ‘officers’ shouted ‘We know you’re a hardline republican’ at the top of his voice, trying to intimidate the young man, who happened to be walking near a loyalist part of the city at the time.
The RNU also said another young man from Ardoyne was also the victim of a recruitment attempt after he was taken out of his and subjected to “threats and blackmail”.
The RNU called on the student unions to denounce what he described as the ‘sadistic’ approaches. RNU spokesperson Martin Meehan aslo alled for Sinn Fein to speak out against “insidious operations” which were “targeting young and vulnerable”.
“They must face the public and explain why they stay silent on these approaches,” he said.
Meanwhile, Derry councillor Gary Donnelly has accused police of harassing his daughter as she returned from a foreign holiday earlier this week.
An independent member of the new Derry-Strabane super council, he is a high profile member of the 32 County Sovereignty movement. He accused police of deliberately targetting his daughter because of her relationship to him.
“Megan was stopped at Belfast international airport on her way back from the holiday by a uniformed policeman who said he wanted to search her baggage. He said he wanted to do the search under the Terrorism Act,” he said.
“When Megan tried to leave the room, he barred the way and shouted at her to sit down. Then two plain clothes policemen came in and said to her ‘You have information that we need.”
He added: “I have broad shoulders and can take this sort of thing but it’s wrong to target my family.” Mr Donnelly said he has asked his lawyer to lodge a complaint with the Police Ombudsman.