13 January 2000 Edition
RUC step up informer drive
By Pádraig MacDabhaid
The RUC is mounting a major drive to blackmail local people and recruit informers in Tyrone, according to Omagh Sinn Féin councillor Terence Brogan.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Brogan accused the RUC of a widespread campaign of ``approaches to people in Gortin, Carrickmore, Omagh and Beragh during the past couple of months''.
Brogan said that both plain-clothes and uniformed RUC personnel have been involved but singled out one particular RUC member, who he says is at the forefront of such harassment in Carrickmore: ``He is Special Branch and is targeting local people in order to compromise them.
``One day they may engage in a charm offensive and the next day they may offer people amnesty for various offences in return for information,'' said Brogan. ``Several young people are living through a nightmare, being regularly followed, pulled in, and asked to keep an eye on named republicans. Others are being asked to provide information in exchange for being allowed to proceed with car defects. In one case, the RUC is targeting a single mother who they know is in considerable debt.''
The RUC will try to set up meetings with people to ``discuss'' the dropping of charges. Their favoured meeting places are behind the Bank of Ireland in Campsie, Omagh, the Lovers Retreat in Omagh, and Drum Manor Forest Park in Cookstown.
Brogan also says that the RUC is involved in phone tapping, as they have repeated details of telephone conversations between local people, a matter he intends to raise with British Telecom.
The Omagh Sinn Féin representative has advised anyone who has found themselves in such a situation to come forward and report the incident to a local elected representative or solicitor.
Sinn Féin Assembly member for the area, Barry McElduff, says that ``this campaign to recruit informers and terrorise people is taking place while certain sections of the media are attempting to demonise the people of Carrickmore over their objections to Monsignor Denis Faul's work in forming a liaison committee between the RUC and some local people masquerading as community representatives.
``This campaign to recruit informers shows that the RUC is still at war with the nationalist community.''
SDLP back one-sided RUC
The SDLP in South Belfast is at the centre of a row over its support and encouragement for a planned RUC arrest operation directed at local youths who congregate at Finaghy Halt in South Belfast.
The arrest plan, according to a local man who spoke to An Phoblacht, planned in conjunction with Northern Ireland Railways (NIR), was aimed at the local youths who ``only hang out around the local railway station because they have nowhere safe to go around the area''.
The planned operation, according to our source, would involve the RUC hiring a train and putting plain clothes members aboard. As the train pulls into Finaghy Halt, RUC members would move against the youths and, supported by backup units in side streets, round them up.
News of the arrest plan only came to light when the RUC announced it at a so-called residents group meeting held in the area on 9 December last. Local SDLP councillor Carmel Hanna was amongst a small group of individuals attending an ``invitation only'' meeting with the RUC. ``This group does not represent local residents,'' said an angry resident. ``They have given the RUC a free hand to harass local youths and many parents are very angry.''
The meeting is the latest in a series of meetings in the area, which have become the centre of controversy themselves. Local people have complained that the meetings have focused on a single issue which targets nationalist youths while failing to address increasing sectarian attacks by loyalists on young people in the area.
``Our young people have been targeted by loyalists and beaten up at Finaghy crossroads,'' said the resident. ``They have been attacked while going to the youth club at St Anne's in attacks that have sometimes been random but in other cases the attacks have been pre-planned. The young people are afraid to leave the area and so hang out at Finaghy Halt.
``The people at the meeting who are encouraging the RUC to arrest these youths are giving the RUC a free reign to terrorise our children,'' our source said. He explained that in the last two years there have been numerous attacks on young Catholic people, four in the past few weeks. The latest attack was last Friday, 7 January, when a loyalist came out of Benmore, off Finaghy Road South, and attacked three local youths. A passerby intervened and stopped the attack before any of the youths were badly hurt.
``As far as we are concerned, the RUC do not care about these attacks and I know that they have not even questioned some of those suspected of carrying them out,'' said our source. ``The RUC have said that they can't prevent the loyalist attacks because they don't have the resources.''