By Cait Trainor (for Damn Your Concessions)
Over the last few months I think we have all noticed the upsurge in IRA membership charges facing Republicans in the 26 Counties, it seems every other day someone is up in the Special Criminal Court; and this year alone we have seen a number Republicans convicted and sent to Portlaoise prison to serve sentences of a few years or more.
As Republicans we keep a keen eye on such developments, many of the people facing these charges will be friends of ours, for some of you, they may even be your family. The general public is apathetic towards such things and is not aware of the high number of people charged, in their mind the war is over, the jails are full of criminals, there are no Political Prisoners. How the truth would shatter their illusions.
In the 32 Counties of Ireland, we have over 70 current Political prisoners; this does not take into account the scores of people on bail awaiting trial. Within this number we have people such as Tony Taylor, interned without trial, no charges levied at him at all, and also the widely accepted miscarriage of justice which is the Craigavon two. What I don’t see being spoken about too much is the onslaught of IRA membership charges; surely this is a campaign in itself?
A few weeks back I decided to look into the volumes of people facing IRA membership charges, active cases not those who have already been convicted. I found over 20 individuals who had active cases pending. This shocked me, I like to believe that I am very up to date on all cases, I knew about them individually but when they were put together as a group the sheer volume was startling.
It is clear to me that IRA membership charges are being brought against Republican activists in an attempt to censor them, in an attempt to hamper the good work they are doing. Any Republican can be arrested and charged with IRA membership, all it takes is the “belief” of a Chief Superintendent. No evidence need be provided just simply the “belief” of one person. When the charged person eventually gets to court; and the Superintendent is questioned on their “belief” they have in the past used privilege, in other words, secret information. Essentially you can be arrested, charged and convicted of IRA membership without having any specific allegation or evidence ever given to justify it.
If any such evidence did exist it would, of course, be provided by informers, these class of people who are open to the highest bidder and will say anything a person wants to hear in order to get paid. When information, if it exists at all, is secret, it removes your fundamental right to defend yourself; you cannot address what you do not know.
To add insult to injury the Court used for IRA membership is not a normal court, these cases are heard in the Special criminal court, which is a non-jury Diplock court presided over by 3 judges.
Let us look for a moment at the Garda Siochana, the police force who brings these charges, the people who we are supposed to believe act with such integrity that their word should be taken on accusations without evidence.
This Police force has been dogged by scandals in recent years, information from Whistle-blowers have exposed their blatant abuse of power, from annulling thousands of penalty points for influential people to recording nearly 1 million phantom alcohol breath tests on the system, just to be clear recording test results that never actually took place.
In the not so distant past, the Morris Tribunal was set up to investigate Garda The tribunal investigated allegations of wrongdoing and corruption in the Donegal division and ran from 2002 to 2008. It concluded that Gardai in Donegal had fabricated explosives finds and had planted firearms in order to justify the arrests of targeted people. It also found some members had fabricated informants and intelligence received.
This is just a brief mention of some of the more familiar scandals that have emerged about an Garda Siochana, these are the same people who arrest Republicans and put them on trial, the only thing needed is the Word of a Garda Chief Superintendent. Now ask yourself is the “belief” of a Superintendent in this force reputable? If they are prepared to lie about breath tests, they are surely prepared to lie in high profile court cases.
It would appear to me that the onslaught of charges against Republicans is more corruption from the Gardai; they are once more abusing their position of power to put away those who challenge the status quo, those who are seen to be “dissidents”, those who are seen to be a problem. In the recent and ongoing Jobstown Trial, had the defendants been subject to the same kind of trial as those on IRA membership charges; Paul Murphy and others would most certainly be in jail.
We must now look at these cases collectively, the people charged may be from different organisations, indeed some are independent Republicans, all, however, are victims of a corrupt Police force intent on quashing any kind of Political dissident.
As more and more cases come to Court I believe we must up the ante in our support, we have to be more vocal and expose what is going on, at any time it could me you or me facing these charges, if we can do nothing for the people currently facing charges, at least we can let the state know we are aware of what is happening and that the jig is up!