on the deployment of the British army Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) and the attack on the British army barracks in Antrim on Sunday 8 March (issued 9 March 2009)
Deployment of Special Reconnaissance Regiment
THE RECENT announcement by PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde that undercover British army intelligence personnel are to be deployed in Northern Ireland is a cause of grave concern to this Association, an organisation of the Irish in Britain and their British friends since 1938.
The past involvement and history of special intelligence forces - military, police or MI5/6 - is not a happy one. The involvement of all branches in the direction and encouragement of both loyalist and republican groups to acts of violence and murder is now well documented (see the various Stevens reports and the report of Canadian High Court Judge Cory).
Like other human rights organisations we insist on knowing whether, like its earlier incarnation, the notorious Force Research Unit, the SRR will run agents and organise and direct murders, through these agents.
It is also imperative that the public know whether former agents of the FRU are serving in the new force.
Our concerns are compounded by the following:
- rumours that the new force is now possibly under the command of brigadier Gordon Kerr. Kerr gave evidence at the trial of the notorious loyalist killer and British agent Brian Nelson and has been implicated in the murder of the Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane
- the knowledge that the unit was involved in the security operation that ended in the killing of an innocent man (Jean Charles de Menezes) at Stockwell tube station in 2005. -
- that since the disbandment of the FRU, its reincarnation as the SRR the regiment has taken part in covert operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Connolly Association believes that the introduction of the SRR threatens to damage the hard work and compromise undertaken in the process of bringing about an agreed system of policing and justice in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements.
Also, that the involvement of the SSR, like that of MI5 which now takes the 'national' lead in intelligence gathering, will undermine both the authority and accountability of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and that of the Policing Board responsible for overseeing policing matters in the six counties.
If all communities in Northern Ireland are to have confidence in the new policing arrangements it is absolutely essential that devolution of justice and policing powers takes place as a matter of urgency and that unaccountable groups like the SRR are not involved in maintaining law and order in the six counties, which is a job for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Attack on the Massereene Barrcks, Co. Antrim
THERE IS no place in Northern Ireland for political violence. A process based on the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements is in place and must be allowed to run its course in full. At the heart of these agreements are institutions and mechanisms whose objective is to ensure that devolved government is able to function in the six counties and that civil rights and equality are available to everyone there.
However, as an organisation committed to ending Britain's presence in Ireland and to supporting the quest for Irish unity and independence, it would be inappropriate for us not to point out that there would be no cause for any such attacks if British troops were not stationed on Irish soil in the first instance. However, as we have long recognised and repeated said over many decades, the issue is not one of British troops alone but one of British sovereignty over the six counties of Northern Ireland.
Nevertheless, there can be no 'security' justification for the presence of armed British forces in any part of Ireland and their removal at the earliest opportunity would assist enormously in the building of new, peaceful relationships, based on equality and mutual respect - both between the communities of Northern Ireland and between people throughout the entire island of Ireland.
Connolly Association joint general secretaries
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