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26 November 1998 Edition

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Back issue: Passing the time of day - Brit style

As anybody living in a nationalist area of the six occupied counties knows only too well it is common practice of the British army to harass people in the streets by asking them numerous personal details such as their date of birth. This is despite the fact that under the ``Emergency Provisions Act'' a ``suspect'' is required to give nothing further than their name, address and where they are going to and coming from.

As we reported in last week's AP/RN in Belfast's Twinbrook Estate the Brits/RUC have been going around with forms recording people's name, address, employer, car details, telephone number, religion and date of birth. Whilst in Derry City the Brits have taken to asking such questions to so great an extent that last week local people complained bitterly and publicly about it. In particular motorists at the Foyle Road checkpoint who have refused to answer detailed personal questions have been branded as ``unco-operative'' and taken into the barracks for further questioning.

In a statement to the news media an imaginative Brit PRO claimed that these allegations are ``totally wrong''!

``We knew that on a few occasions some soldiers have asked these questions but it is only to make conversation - they realise they can in no way demand an answer.

``People don't have to answer questions about their date of birth or occupation, and it is definitely not true that they are being brought in for further questioning if they refuse to do do.

``Sometimes I recieve complaints from the public that soldiers have been asking these questions, but I have to explain to them that they are merely trying to pass the time of day''.

So next time a Brit asks you your date of birth or occupation you know what to say - as long as you've got the next four hours to spare ``passing the time of day'' in the nearest Brit barracks!

An Phoblacht 25 November 1978

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1