26 November 1998 Edition
RUC - time to go
In the past week evidence has continued to mount up to make a damning case against the RUC.
The force fired nine plastic bullets in Lurgan and two live rounds in South Armagh (see stories below). In neither incident were the RUC men's lives in danger and both incidents contravened their own rules for the discharge of their weapons.
Most of the media carried reports of the incidents provided by the RUC press office. These reports were false and were issued in an attempt to justify the firing of weapons at civilians.
Two other reports in An Phoblacht this week deal with RUC attempts to recruit informers in the nationalist communities. These attempts consist of intimidation, threats and, in one case, physical violence against the targets of the recruitment attempts.
Last week the UN Committee Against Torture condemned the RUC for the use of brutality during interrogations, deaths in RUC custody, and human rights violations arising out of the use of emergency legislation and the deployment of plastic bullets.
In any normal society this litany of abuse would immediately lead to general calls for action to be taken against the force involved. In the Six Counties that has not happened. But republicans must now raise their voices and demand a new policing service particularly at this time when the Good Friday Agreement provides for the creation of acceptable policing. The message for the RUC is clear - it is time to go.
RUC fired at crowd
By Peadar Whelan
``A clear case of attempted murder'', was how Toni Carragher of the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee (SAFRC) described the actions of a trigger happy RUC man who fired off two live rounds of ammunition during an altercation with local people last Sunday.
The incident happened at around 6pm on the Legmoyland Road in Silverbridge, South Armagh when six local men left Donnelly's Bar and were confronted by a joint patrol of British marines and RUC men.
According to witnesses the crown forces personnel hurled sectarian verbal abuse at the local men, all aged around 20, and at one point threatened them.
``They were shouting that they would `sort South Armagh out' and would `take someone out before we leave', this is the type of threatening behaviour and abuse the Marines were involved in before they shot Fergal Caraher dead in 1990'', we were told by a man who did not wish to be named.
According to the man the Marines then cocked their rifles and one of the RUC men cocked his gun and fired a shot in the air.
``The second shot was fired at us, it was an aimed shot, it just missed hitting one of us,'' said the man.
When An Phoblacht spoke to SAFRC spokesperson Toni Carragher she discounted RUC claims that the patrol had been surrounded and attacked and that the patrol had been airlifted to safety.
``The crowd only grew after people in Donnelly's came out to see what was happening after they heard the shooting. They didn't threaten the patrol. In fact the patrol moved off along the Legmoyland Road and the only helicopter that appeared was a Gazelle that shadowed the patrol''.
``This whole incident is outrageous,'' concluded Ms Carragher, ``when you think that the Patten Commission was in South Armagh on Thursday. The RUC are condemned by their own actions''.
RUC open fire in Lurgan
A week after the use of plastic bullets was condemned in a UN report, the RUC opened fire with the lethal weapons on the Nationalist Kilwilkie estate in Lurgan in an incident on Sunday evening 22 November.
At least nine plastic bullets were fired in unrest that followed the sealing off of an area around the Clann Eireann GAA club after a suspect device had been discovered in a car. Up to 20 RUC landrovers were used in a joint RUC/RIR operation.
A local resident confirmed that at no time were the crown forces in any danger.
He said, ``the level of [RUC] activity has never slackened off, they are continually stopping and searching local people but are specifically targeting a number of young people.''
Sinn Fein Assembly spokesperson on Human Rights, Mary Nelis said, ``despite the criticism of the British government by the UN Committee Against Torture at the recent hearings in Geneva, the RUC is still engaged in the reckless discharge of plastic bullets. The British government is obliged, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, to immediately address this issue.''
Dara O'Hagan, SF Assembly member for the area said, ``this is not only further compelling evidence against the use of plastic bullets but it also increases the pressure on the Patten Commission to organise a Lurgan venue for Nationalists to explain what they see as the requirements for a new policing service.''
Newry man abducted by RUC
A young Newry man has become the latest target in the RUC's continued campaign to recruit informers. The 17 year old was walking close to the town's Corry Square RUC barracks at 10.30pm on Tuesday 3 November when he saw four RUC cars parked in four adjoining streets. Earlier, one of the cars had driven slowly beside him as he walked from his home into the town.
Two RUC men jumped from one of the cars and approached him and another young man who was walking in the street at the time. The RUC men searched both men at gunpoint then ordered the youth to get into their car.
He was driven around Newry for over an hour. At one stage he was forced from the car and into another RUC car, during which he was beaten around the head. This car drove to the Warrenpoint Road and parked. ``They took out a book,'' he said, ``and started asking me questions about six men. I refused to answer any of their questions''
They offered a large sum of money if he would provide information on the men. When he again refused they said he was to contact ``Harry'' or ``John'' at Corry Square barracks if he changed his mind.
The car then drove to the Ardmore RUC barracks and he was ordered out.
He has made an official complaint through his solicitor and the other young man who witnessed his abduction has come forward.
Local councillor Davy Hyland has described this latest informer recruitment attempt as ``yet another reason why the RUC should be disbanded.''
``The RUC is an occupying force in Newry who operate through fear and intimidation. They behave in the way they did towards this young man because they believe they will get away with it. I hope in this case they will be brought to book.''
He urged anyone caught in the same situation to immediately contact a solicitor and publicise their experience.
North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly has accused the RUC of ``threatening a man's life'' in a bid to recruit him as an informer.
Kelly said, ``Frank Pettigrew, who works on the Oldpark Road in North Belfast, was approached by two RUC men at an RUC checkpoint on the Crumlin Road as he drove to work last Tuesday morning, 17 November. One of the RUC men took him aside and told him it would be in his interest to meet them on Thursday night. Pettigrew then met the RUC at 7.30pm on Thursday. They took him to the Ballysillan playing fields where he was threatened. They told him that unless he spied on a number of named republicans he `could' get a visit at work from the Red Hand Defenders.''
Pettigrew has now passed on all the details of the incident to a solicitor. Kelly said, ``this incident further underlines, if it was needed, the fact that the RUC is incapable of impartial policing. It is not the behaviour of a policing service, it is the action of a force that has not grasped the new political reality.''
The RUC has denied the attempted approach.
`RUC Watch' launched
by Laura Friel
Sinn Fein has launched an `RUC WATCH' initiative. Six County chairperson Fra McCann said the initiative was set to monitor, record and take appropriate political action ``challenging RUC violations against the nationalist community''.
In a bid to influence the Patten Commission, the RUC is engaged in a highly political, high profile charm offensive across the Six Counties, said McCann, while largely unreported actions by the RUC which constitute gross human rights violations against nationalists are occurring daily.
``The RUC Watch initiative is your opportunity to place on record the facts about the RUC,'' said McCann.
The initiative comes at a time when the British government is under increasing pressure to disband the RUC. Scrutiny of the British government's record of human rights violations by the United Nations Committee Against Torture last week focused heavily upon the actions of the RUC. At the hearing the British were questioned about RUC brutality during interrogations, specifically the case of Davy Adams, the number of deaths in RUC custody, the lack of safeguards during interrogation at RUC centres like Castlereagh, human rights violations arising out of the use of emergency legislation and the deployment of plastic bullets. At the very core of the United Nations' criticism is the RUC.
``This UN report, like scores of others by Human Rights agencies over the past 30 years, has condemned the behaviour of the RUC, as well as the approach of the British government to the use of torture and of plastic bullets,'' said Gerry Adams. ``It is further evidence of the logic of Sinn Fein's demand that the RUC be disbanded.''
Clare Reilly of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets commenting on the UN report, reiterated the call to disband the RUC. Describing the deaths and injuries inflicted by the use of plastic bullets as ``the reality of lethal weapons in the hands of a sectarian force,'' the UCAPB spokesperson said, ``the RUC must be disbanded, plastic bullets withdrawn and a new unarmed police service established which reflects the makeup of the entire community.''
In the last six months, since the signing of the Good Friday Document An Phoblacht has reported over 300 incidents within the nationalist community in which the RUC has been guilty of violating basic human rights. These violations have included almost 50 incidents of harassment against peaceful demonstrators, with a further four full scale orchestrated attacks on peaceful protests, over 70 incidents of harassment, intimidation and assault, over 30 serious injuries, including eight plastic bullet injuries, 16 cases where the RUC failed to intervene during sectarian attacks, 36 of intimidation during recruitment approaches, over 30 house raids and 70 arbitrary arrests.
``This represents the tip of the iceberg,'' says Fra McCann. ``In the past nationalist communities have survived by absorbing rather than highlighting harassment by the RUC which occurs on a daily basis throughout all aspects of people's lives, at work, at home, on the way to school, during peaceful protests. If the hopes of the Irish people engendered by the Good Friday Agreement are to be realised, the actions of the RUC must be placed on public record. I would urge everyone whose rights are violated by the RUC to contact Sinn Fein's `RUC WATCH' initiative to register their complaint.''
Incidents involving the RUC can be placed on record by contacting Belfast 326644 or telephoning An Phoblacht at Belfast 600279.