A political activist campaigning for a Six-County Border Poll on Irish unity has been approached by the PSNI police to become an informer.
Joe Matthews had helped to build a website in support of the ‘Yes of Unity’ campaign. His party, the left-wing IRSP, remains supportive of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, which allow for the possibility of an internal Border Poll in the Six Counties.
Mr Matthews said he was approached by three men, one of whom claimed to be a member of the PSNI, after coming off a flight at Belfast International Airport on Saturday. He was approached as he made his way to a luggage collection area.
“What they said is ‘we know you from the website and we want you to co-operate with us’,” he said. “At that point I said ‘go away’ and they said nothing after that.”
Mr Matthews said he believes the PSNI are “worried about a working class based Irish unity and anti-sectarian initiative”.
His lawyer Michael Brentnall said he has instigated complaints with both the Police Ombudsman’s office and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.
He said the PSNI conduct amounted to “clear attempts to interfere in [Mr Matthews’] private and family life and in his right to legitimate political activity which are enshrined under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Good Friday Agreement respectively.”
Pressure for a Six-County poll on reunification has increased significantly in the context of Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union. Earlier this year, the British Direct Ruler warned fellow Cabinet Ministers that Brexit would increase the public demand for a referendum.
Recent polls have indicated a majority of voters in the North now support a referendum in the context of Brexit, as do voters in Britain.
Sinn Féin Deputy leader Michelle O’Neill has said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a referendum on a united Ireland is “an obvious option which must be on the table”.
“There is a growing sense that circumstances are now rapidly changing which will inevitably lead to the final break-up of the current constitutional structures,” she said.
“People from across this society, even those of a British identity, are now seriously questioning whether there are any merits of staying within the Union after Brexit.
“The Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful democratic pathway to Irish Unity. The issue of Irish Unity has taken on a new dynamic because of Brexit. This cannot be ignored. The political momentum is moving in that direction.”