Former Prisoners and Republican activists under attack, it could be you next!

Britain’s new counter-terrorism bill, which came into effect on 12th April 2019 is an outright attack on freedom of political expression and opinion. The new laws enacted should be of particular concern to political activists here in Ireland. Three of the key points are listed below:

“extends the ‘offence’ of inviting support for a proscribed organisation to cover expressions of support” 

This is open to blatant abuse, what constitutes expressions of support in the British Governments eyes can and will be legitimate political expression. In the last few years we have seen a number of political activists in Ireland be arrested for giving political speeches or conducting political interviews with media, they have subsequently been found to have no case to answer in court. This new law now makes it easier for the courts to convict such activists and was included no doubt due to the failure to previously convict Irish Republicans.

“It is an office to display in a public place an image which arouses ‘reasonable’ suspicion that the person is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation, includes the display of images online (including of a photograph taken in a private place)” 

We have seen already pictures of our patriot dead removed from social media platforms; this new “offence” will disproportionately affect Republican activists who frequently wear uniforms on parade and share publicity pictures later.

We know from experience that the British Government and their armed gunmen in the RUC have confiscated Colour Party uniforms under terrorist legislation, now sharing a picture of a colour party at a commemoration could potentially be an offence.

“offence of obtaining information likely to be useful to a ‘terrorist’ now includes material that is just viewed or streamed over the internet, rather than downloaded to form a permanent record” 

This is vague and open-ended, anything could be of use to ‘terrorists’, be it looking up details of the local police station, researching for political articles, the list is endless. 

More worryingly, the new act contains measures designed to control the lives of some former Republican Prisoners, including legally forcing them to annually sign in at a Police station, not unlike a register and confirm the details.

In a letter notifying them of new requirements, they are threatened with 5 years’ imprisonment if they do not comply. In describing these new measures the British Government themselves, liken it to the sex offenders register stating:

“Registered ‘Terrorist’ Offenders to provide additional information to the police in line with what Registered Sex Offenders must provide” 

Some former Republican Prisoners are now subject to a number of new conditions, although this act passed into law on April 12th, the deadline to provide the new information and present themselves to the Police is 19th July 2019. The five new conditions are listed below.

1. Foreign Travel - former prisoners must now inform Police about all plans to travel out of the country, for any period of time. They must state; where they intend to travel and point of arrival. The name of the airline they will use, the address they intend to stay, the date of return home and point of arrival home.

Disturbingly travel to the 26 counties of Ireland is included in the above.

2. Contact details - Required to notify police of any email address or telephone numbers they hold.

3. Vehicles - required to inform police of any vehicles they own or have the right to use.

4. Financial accounts - required to give police information on bank accounts, including the sort code and account number.

5. Identity documents- required to give the police details of passport, and if issued new passport, details must be given within 3 days. If they do not hold a passport they must provide details of any other identification they possess.

This new bill is very worrisome, given the history of the RUC in Ireland and its long confirmed associations and known collusion with loyalists this could also potentially be dangerous for former Republican Prisoners. It further adds extended time onto a prisoner’s licence, as the period of time they must sign this register is from their release and does not include when they were in custody.

All Republicans need to study this new bill and understand the implications for us all as activists.



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