A look at the evolution of internment, from a speech delivered by National PRO of Republican Network for Unity, Nathan Stuart, at a picket organised by the Anti-Internment Group For Ireland (AIGI).
The Introduction of Internment in the August of 1971 is one of the most widely known examples of collective punishment in Irish history. It was ham-fisted to say the least, mass arrests, out of date intelligence and until February 1973 no loyalists were detained by the measure. The wide scale nature of Internment, the indifference towards needing any substantial or credible evidence, the safeguarding of pro state loyalist terrorists and the subsequent brutality of the interrogations that followed, as was piloted on the 14 internees which would become known as the hooded men. All these overt, coercive tactics are the culminating factors of British Army primacy in security and ample opposition to these measures was forthcoming .
The primacy of the British Army represented a state of destabilization, a failed state and as desirable as the criminalisation of republican prisoners had been during the blanket protest and subsequent hunger strikes. The British government required the same for their counter insurgency outside the prisons. The criminalisation of Irish republicanism as a whole and on a societal scale required a normalised approach to combating anti-state actors, violent and nonviolent. Simply put, the transition from overt army primacy, to covert intelligence led “rule of law” stratagems. Through the use of special branch and MI5 and aided by their 26 county counterparts, this is the preferred method in which the British state quells political dissent and it has proven much more effective in terms of preventing public outrage and opposition. It has in fact, through its insidious covert application, normalized internment in Ireland today.
It is no exaggeration that the legal institutions of the northern state have been weaponised, a quote from the infamous Brigadier Frank Kitson unashamedly directs us to this conclusion, he states “the Law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, and in this case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public. For this to happen efficiently, the activities of the legal services have to be tied into the war effort in as discreet a way as possible”. The desired effect that legal flexibility in culmination with sociological criminalisation is to allow for any political actor deemed a threat to the state and it’s narrative to be removed thereafter without risk of destabilisation. Selective detention when the incorporation of a hostile, defamatory media is taken into account, provides the state with the ability to, as Kitson desired, dispose of “unwanted” members of the public.
No greater example of the hypocrisy of the complicit judiciary exists today than that of the brainchild of Kenneth Diplock, the non-jury courts. Established in the North on the 8th August 1973 and officially abolished ten years ago, the continuation of these farcical trials by subsequent British secretary of states is not only politically convenient for the British state but highlight that the Northern state has no desire to normalise that which works in its security favour, the retaining of a system which can only rationally be viewed as conveyer-belt justice has and will continue to be used to secure long periods of remand and with the additional factor of secret evidence, convictions, the chance of a fair hearing under this system is virtually non-existent.
One such example of the legal system’s deficit, is the case of Cogus prisoner and former national chairperson of RNU Carl Reilly, though his case is not in isolation. Remanded to Maghaberry prison 20th October 2015, after being charged with membership of a proscribed organisation & directing terrorism, as a result of a Gardai surveillance operation in February 2015 at a Hotel in County Louth. Those who carried out the surveillance operation and gathered the evidence later acknowledged that it was of poor quality and the evidence largely circumstantial, despite this the PSNI adopted the case and making full use of the legal ambiguities of the North’s judiciary, desire to secure a conviction on evidence that was deemed inadmissible by the very same body which carried out the surveillance operation.
Carl’s case is but one of a plethora of injustices, the accusation of living in the past that is so often levied at republicans rings hollow when the very same Machiavellian tactics that were justified at the peak of the recent conflict remain in place in 2017. The attack on the right to liberty, the right to freely organise and retain a political opinion without fear of coercion is an attack not only on the individual but on the very ideology itself. This hostility is the result of the residual imperialistic worldview of Westminster politicians and at a time when Britain becomes increasingly irrelevant on a world stage, economically and militarily, with growing demands for independence from Scotland and now the increasingly precarious position Britain faces with Brexit, the risk of an anti-imperialist republicanism growing in the empire’s backyard would be an intolerable development.
As previously stated this strategy to quell political dissent is the removal of political agitators that pose a risk to the state, whether this be an effective organiser, a charismatic orator, political bridge builder or an insightful policymaker, any individual that displays a capability is at risk. Article 5 of the Human Right’s act has been categorically and repeatedly disregarded to secure the imprisonment of republicans for years at a time, arbitrary detention is the norm for these unwanted persons. As such the only rational response is both exposure and encouragement;
To expose this systemic injustice, loud and often. To inject energy and enthusiasm into a campaign to bring to light the weaponization of the judiciary and demand an end to extensive delays for hearings, secret evidence and diplock courts.
We must also actively encourage the development of participatory resistance. That as many as possible are encouraged to rally behind calls against selective detention, politically motivated arrest and internment. This is an arduous task, at a time of public apathy and misinformation it will often be thankless but the onus is on the people gathered here today to motivate ourselves and like minded progressives, to push ourselves to expose the latest evolution of internment to the wider public and push this hereditary injustice once again to the forefront of the minds of the Irish people.