The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Political Policing


Willie Gallagher • 12 November 2005

On Thursday 27th October 2005 a series of raids directed at Teach na Failte, an ex-INLAs prisoners group, began at 11.00am. A total of 40 PSNI land rovers, 25 armored PSNI cars, 8 4x4 jeeps and 12 vans were used in the operation. A total of 23 homes, 2 business premises and theTnF office were raided in Strabane. The TnF office in Belfast was also raided. One third of the homes had their doors sledged in and several houses were in effect trashed. Most of the homes but not all belonged to members and workers from TnF, past and present. Most of the warrants were similar in nature… laundering, financial documents and computer equipment. Computers and files relating to hundreds of participants who partook in courses to enhance their employment prospects were seized. Confidential details of participants, which had absolutely no bearing to the stated reason on the search warrants, were also seized. Telephones, fax machines, C.Vs, certificates of achievement, job applications and funding applications were also taken. Some of the people who haven’t worked for TnF for up to 3 years and who through the assistance of TnF gained long term employment also had to endure the painful experience of having their homes broken into. The PSNI stated that money and cigarettes were seized during the raid giving the impression that these items were taken during the house raids. None of these stated items were found in any of the homes, offices or business premises that were searched but were in fact seized from a person who drove his van into a cul-de-sac where one of the raids was taking place.

My home was one of those raided by the PSNI who stated that they were looking for evidence of money laundering, firearms, munitions and scanners. The CID officer in charge told me that they knew they would find nothing and apologized for the raid. Despite moving my computer, which they told me they were seizing, from one side of the room to the other they forgot to take it with them. The raid had only begun when Channel 9 news phoned me asking why I was getting raided. Twenty minutes later a press photographer was taking photographs of my home. He quickly left the area after being confronted about his actions. The PSNI took a credit union book, which they seized last year after my arrest for the Ulster Bank robbery, as well as all photographs and post cards I had from a trip to Cuba and other documents relating to Cuba and Teach na Failte. The PSNI personnel involved in raiding my home were unusually polite and apologetic unlike during the vast majority of the raids elsewhere where they were aggressive, abusive and in one case assaulted a man knocking him to the ground from his wheelchair. They left just after two hours from their invasion. The whole PSNI operation lasted for just over 12 hours and was directed against TnF.

I have no doubt that this State operation was a part of a strategy outlined last year in the Belfast Telegraph by “security correspondents” who stated that there was going to be “an unprecedented attack on those believed to be involved in the Ulster Bank robbery and this attack was going to manifest itself in various manners”. I also have no doubt that it was a propaganda exercise, just like the Spotlight programme titled Border Bandits, in order to further demonize, criminalize, isolate and marginalize anti-GFA republicans. Six weeks before the raids TnF went through a government audit, which, like previous audits, went to their satisfaction. If the PSNI were really interested in TnF and its activities, it’s all on record with the NIO except for actual participants and their confidential files which has led some to believe that the PSNI operation was an intelligence gathering exercise though I believe it was much more than that. I further believe that those behind this assault on TnF are pissing in the wind and will fail in their objectives.

The PSNI and their political masters have in effect closed TnF down with 6 full time workers and 8 part time workers now being forced onto the dole queue or find employment elsewhere. One would be forgiven for thinking these job losses did not happen as elected representatives have uttered not one word of condemnation. Had 14 workers attached to an English or American multi-national company been made redundant in such a manner I am sure the same politicians would have had a lot to say. Perhaps the MPs and MLAs were too busy counting their huge expenses and salaries they receive for sitting on their fat arses doing nothing whatsoever for the people. Maybe some of them were too busy talking to their dogs in the street. Whatever their reasons the message TnF has been receiving from hundred of past participants is very clear “Business as usual and we just aren’t going to go away you know.

Many commentators have stated that this PSNI operation was the largest in the history of the North West and one of the most aggressive, yet Sinn Fein, the so-called champions of an Ireland of all equals, had nothing to say. Personally this comes as no surprise as equality and human rights is not on SFs agenda for anti-GFA republicans. It also comes as no surprise due to the fact that the leadership of the Provisional Republican Movement know that a number of individuals connected with them in the Strabane area have been involved in a demonization campaign for years against Strabane IRSP members in particular. For over a decade now since my release from Long Kesh after serving a total of 18 years I and other IRSP members have been on the receiving end of a black propaganda campaign in order to demonize, criminalize, isolate and marginalize us. This campaign was waged by individuals connected to the Provisional Republican Movement, some of whom I believe are also working for agencies of the State. This began after I rejected several requests from them to join their movement just after my release. This campaign at times had sinister elements to it: i.e. physical attacks on other local IRSP members which usually resulted in the assailants coming of worse, planting false and malicious stories in the media, attacks on property and conspiring to kill individual members of the IRSP. Down throughout the years I have received several written death threats delivered by gloating PSNI officers stating that there was going to be “an imminent gun attack on me by PIRA for unspecified reasons” as well as some coming from loyalist paramilitaries. Did these people behind this campaign expect me to run and hide or was their purpose to create a bloody feud in which the only winners would be the State. Regardless of what their intentions were I was never going to allow myself to be intimidated from my political position or from my outspoken views against injustice within the community or from my unapologetic support for the INLA. Let me state quite clearly I believe it is wrong and immoral for any republican to turn their guns on fellow republicans. Likewise it is equally wrong and immoral to conduct campaigns of character assassination against fellow republicans.

Of late some of these individuals I have already talked about have been pumping out into the community, knowing that it will be picked up by the PSNI, rumors that IRSP members in Strabane “own multiple houses, pubs, taxi depots and blocks of flats” which they claim has been funded by robberies, drug dealing, extortion etc etc. All of us here know that Britain has been involved in dirty tricks and black propaganda over the centuries and have used their agents within our communities to do their dirty work. How many more Beano Caseys do we have living in Strabane? So all of this demonisation from the State comes as no surprise, after all, our Movement has been constantly attacked since its inception with many of our leaders being assassinated by the State. Now the order of the day is character assassination, spin and black propaganda against those who are regarded as subversives. Well I am certainly not ashamed to be labeled as a subversive as I will never accept this corrupt State. I am not surprised at the silence of all the main constitutional Parties as individual members belonging to them are partially culpable for the raids. However I do acknowledge and welcome the apology in relation to the latest attempts by some of these individuals to smear and demonise the IRSP in Strabane.

I have often been accused of being anti-SF/IRA, though I was never sure exactly what this meant so I would like to put on record, a fact many would acknowledge, that despite this vicious nasty and sinister campaign, I have maintained many deep and long-lasting friendships with many IRA ex-prisoners, both locally and nationally, to the present day. All of whom I have a deep respect for and admiration for their own personal struggle. It is somewhat ironic that on the day the latest smears were being delivered to the leadership of the IRSP I was involved in combating a threat against Provisional Republican Movement members in County Derry by criminal elements who believed they were untouchable and who used a firearm in an attack on a republican missing him. It is also ironic that despite the fact that I was deeply involved in assisting others in bringing about an INLA ceasefire, in which I had the honor of declaring, and of currently engaging with other anti-GFA republicans in relation to them also calling a ceasefire that I and other comrades are coming under attack by the pro-GFA forces. The relationship I would like to see among all republicans, despite political differences, is the relationships, respect and solidarity shown by IRA/INLA hungerstrikers.

Ironically a week later after the Strabane raids SF had plenty to say about a handful of raids in Dungannon and Killcoo in which they rightly condemned as political policing. But when is political policing not political policing in Sinn Fein speak…obviously when it is directed against anti-GFA republicans.

Demonisation is something which many IRSP members and other republicans throughout the country have went through for decades yet we are still here unbowed and unapologetic.




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Index: Current Articles

25 November 2005

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Political Policing
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Mary McGurk — Giving Voice to the Abandoned
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Bartering the Infinities
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The Political Police
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Herrema's Kidnapper Explains Motive
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Revenge is a Dish Served Cold
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Causes and Effects
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Speaking Truth to Power
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A View of the H-Blocks
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