A legal challenge is being mounted over a new quasi-militarised border zone being planned by the British government.
Under a little-known element of legislation enacted last year, a mile-wide “stop and search zone” has been established along the length of the border. Under the new powers, any member of the public could be stopped to establish if they are entering or leaving the north.
Lawyer Michael Brentnall said the legislation provides the British Crown with “the power to curtail and disrupt the lives and lifestyles of anyone the PSNI locate in close proximity to the border”.
He said it “criminalises the entire border community” by turning cross-border travel into “hostile activity”. Regardless of Brexit, he said it “creates an effective ‘hard border’ scenario offensive to basic common law civil rights and European free movement legislation.
Fermanagh republican Kevin Barry Nolan is taking court action to halt the implementation of the regulations. As a former prisoner, Mr Nolan is already required to notify the PSNI if he intends to cross the border. This further legislation compels him to provide detailed information about the specifics and logistic arrangements of any cross-border travel.
“As the resident of a rural border community in which free-flow cross-county travel is both a necessity and a normal aspect of everyday life, these further police powers will now place an unacceptable burden upon him and effectively trample upon his basic rights as an Irish and European citizen,” Mr Brentnall said.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party also expressed their concerns over the plans. The IRSP called on border communities across the North to oppose the new draconian legislation and to highlight their opposition.
Tyrone representative Michael McLaughlin said: “My home town of Strabane straddles the British border in Ireland. Under these new laws, entire areas are now criminalised and branded as hostile in the eyes of the state and British Government. This is completely unacceptable.”
He went on to say, “the only hostile actor in this part of Ireland is the British government, who continue to impose the illegal partition of Ireland by deploying and controlling the heavily armed PSNI as a force to harass, threaten and criminalise these local communities.
“The only answer to this is the complete ending of partition and to allow our border communities to prosper in a United Ireland without being held hostage by the state.”