Ireland: ‘normalisation’ challenged

FRFI 212 December 2009 / January 2010

The activity of Republican militants opposed to the peace process has increased in the north of Ireland as the political wrangle between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party over the devolution of policing powers to Belfast continues. The Brit­ish strategy of normalisation, to treat the Six Counties that make up North­ern Ireland as a normal part of the United Kingdom, is being undermined by the activities of those opposed to British imperialism in Ireland. In re­sponse the British army has increased covert patrols and the harassment of Repub­licans has intensified.

 

On 21 November a 400lb bomb out­side  the headquarters of the Police Board failed to explode. Later that night in the Fermanagh border village of Garrsion, gun shots were exchanged between Republican militants and ­Bri­tish security forces. These latest attacks do not come in isolation. In late September the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) revealed that the threat posed by Republican militants had led the British army to attend 750 bomb alerts in the past two years. In the first six months of 2009 there were more than 130 bomb, weapon or ammunition finds across the north.

On 16 October, a relative of a pol­ice officer was injured in a car-bomb attack in a Unionist area of East Belfast. This marked increased tension in Belfast and other nationalist areas. Police are now as a matter of routine wearing full ballistic body armour, and foot patrols by British army under­cover soldiers attached to the Special Reconnaissance Regiment have in­creased in Republican areas. In late November a Belfast newspaper re­ported that the list of Repub­licans under surveillance in Belfast has grown threefold in the past two months alone and across the north around 200 are under routine surveillance. On 3 Nov­em­ber Irish Repub­lican Socialist Party members leaving the party’s Belfast office had their car surrounded by four undercover PSNI vehicles with armed and masked PSNI members screaming demands at them. Police were so ag­gressive that one of the men reported that he thought he was going to be shot. On 17 Novem­ber, leading Bel­fast Repub­lican Marian Price was arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into the Republican attack on the British army base at Massereene in March (see FRFI 208); she was later released. Her crime appears to be her status as an articulate outspoken critic of the political process pursued by Sinn Fein.

Paul Mallon

 

Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed

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