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5 November 1998 Edition

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RUC informer drive ``act of war''

By Peadar Whelan

With An Phoblacht receiving a stream of reports from nationalists complaining of RUC attempts to coerce them into becoming informers Sinn Fein's Northern chairperson Fra McCann has accused the RUC of ``building for war''.

McCann said, ``the RUC have no interest in peace, they are more concerned about their livelihoods than they are about peace. We know this latest informer drive is widespread and we would ask anyone who has been approached to contact their local Sinn Fein office and their solicitor to expose the RUC. Exposing them is the best way to stop them''.

In the past week we have interviewed a number of nationalist men who have been targeted by the RUC. All of them spoke of the threatening nature and intimidation the RUC has directed against them in attempts to coerce the men into spying.

As these recruitment attempts included detailed knowledge of the men it is clear the RUC had planned their operations well in advance. Two of the men spoke of noticing undercover squads following them. One said eight months ago he was followed by three men in a red Peugeot car while another says that from February this year when he was first stopped by an RUC patrol he has since been stopped on numerous occasions including once when he flew into Bristol airport. As one man put it, ``they were following in unmarked cars but letting me know it''.

Coincidentally three of those we spoke to are self-employed businessmen and were targeted on the basis of their work.

One man from the New Lodge area of Belfast - whose home overlooks the area's Sinn Fein centre which has been attacked on numerous occasions by loyalists - was visited in his premises in Belfast City Centre by RUC men claiming to be from the fraud squad.

The RUC men accused the man of not paying a bill and questioned him and a woman employee before leaving.

This occurred in July and when the man contacted the RUC to confirm the identity of the pair he was eventually told they were based at Musgrave Street.

While in Musgrave Street five men took the man into a room. ``They were very provocative and insulting. The situation was very threatening,'' said the man.

At this point an RUC detective, calling himself Kelly, introduced himself and offered to ``sort this problem out, if you agree to help us''. The man refused ``to be a tout'', and challenged the RUC to arrest him before leaving the barracks.

This was the first of a series of incidents where the RUC accused the man of failing to honour bills. On three separate occasions, as he went out with his girlfriend, he was followed by the RUC.

The man also told us that the RUC have, secretly, examined his bank accounts. The man didn't find this out officially, as neither the bank nor the RUC have told him anything about it. Indeed it was a bank employee who told him in a phone call.

As a result of the RUC's activity the man was forced out of the business centre he was based in and now has trouble keeping his business going.

In another case father of three John Foster from Ligoniel, who first noticed the RUC following him about eight months ago, was in Tennent Street RUC barracks last Wednesday to deal with motoring offences when he was asked by two RUC man calling themselves Kevin and Billy to pass on information about local republicans.

``I was offered £2,500 if I cooperated,'' Mr Foster said.

Last Wednesday a third Belfast businessman who works out of Conway Mill went to Carrickfergus to meet a client. The client, calling himself Mr Robinson, had contacted the man about work in the coastal town so he agreed to meet him in the car park of the castle.

As the man waited an RUC car drove in, parked and the crew, two RUC men, walked over to the businessman.

``One, using my first name, said hello and confirmed he was Mr Robinson when I asked him but said he wanted to discuss `something else' when I mentioned the work''.

At this the RUC man said their intelligence told them the man was ``in trouble'' as he ``was having an affair with a POW's wife''.

The RUC then went on to say that the man, who had been part of a community watch group, was involved with ``terrorists''.

``I told them I only wanted to help the community and at this point they asked if `I thought helping the RUC was helping the community'.

``So, I said `you're asking me to become an informer aren't you?'''.

When he refused the RUC began questioning him about Conway Mill and saying that it had `terrorist connections' and asking if he knew of `people planning bombings' would he tell them.

``I was first stopped in February of this year and since then I have been subjected to a series of incidents of harassment, including racist comments about the colour of my skin. It is clear to me that the only contribution the RUC can make to the peace process,'' said the man, ``is to disband''.

When An Phoblacht contacted the man's solicitor, Philip Breen, he confirmed that he had made a complaint to the RUC and said that his was one of a number of complaints he had received from clients about the RUC putting pressure on people to inform and have minor offences ignored.

Meanwhile Armagh Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGirr has warned nationalists to be wary of the RUC after they tried to lure a man out of his house as part of a plan to entrap him. The man had been targeted twice in the past two weeks and in the second attempt the RUC offered him a ``five figure sum'' to pass on information about named individuals.

The RUC phoned the man's house pretending to be a friend and tried to lure him to a a nearby field. Being suspicious the man phoned his friend and confirmed that he had not called. During a second call, that night, the caller identified himself as an RUC man and warned the man not to go public as the RUC would not tolerate another attempt to embarrass them.
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