Monday, 27 August 2012
‘Know Your Rights’ Campaign Launched in Newry
Several dozen people attended the public launch of éirígí’s “Know your rights” campaign in Newry Arts Centre on Thursday [August 23].
The event was introduced by the party’s Newry representative Stephen Murney and was chaired by Councillor Davy Hyland. A legal professional provided an in depth view of the various legislation used and abused by Britain’s police force and provided a presentation on the statistics available.
éirígí’s Rúnaí Ginearálta Breandán Mac Cionnaith gave a historical and present day analysis of British policing in Ireland and made comparisons between repressive legislation used as far back as the RIC, RUC and the present day PSNI.
Mac Cionnaith explained, “The historical use of special powers to address opposition to British rule in Ireland created a sort of sham internal legitimacy within the Six Counties that has supported the continued use of similar coercive measures from partition right through to the situation we find ourselves in today where two political parties who once opposed such repressive laws now acquiesce to their use.
“Repressive laws have become so much part of the fabric of life in the North that the mindset of constitutional nationalists has veered away from viewing repressive legislation as anything other than normal – little surprise given that they have fully brought into Britain’s normalisation policy. Perhaps, those parties have forgotten that one of the demands of the civil rights movement, which they both claim descent from, was the repeal of the Special Powers Act – not its replacement with more repressive legislation.”
Pointing out that the repressive legislation in use today is intended to prevent anyone from expressing or organising political, social or economic opposition to the status quo in the Six Counties, Breandán continued, “That was the intent behind the introduction of the Special Powers Act in the Twenties, and that is the intent behind such legislation today. The new stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act will likely be used in a similar way – those powers will be used for ‘dragnet’ low level intelligence gathering exercises and general intimidation and harassment.
“The lack of knowledge which prevails about extent of repressive legislation amongst our communities, and even amongst many political activists, demonstrates how well the British state has succeeded in isolating and demonising Republicans and radicals in the Six Counties. It also demonstrates how well the British state has succeeded in its normalisation policy.”
Breandán concluded, “It is vital that we familiarise with those remnants of our individual rights and civil liberties, especially today when new anti-‘terrorist’ legislation is casting the net of repression ever wider. It is important that we educate others what the British State in the Six Counties is capable of and how it operates. The launch of this “Know Your Rights” card is part of that process of education. It will be updated regularly to take account of changes in legislation.”
Following the panel discussion there was a very informative question and answer session during which those in attendance raised their concerns and gave their accounts of the harassment they have received. Some valuable and helpful advice was provided by the legal professional.
Speaking after the launch éirígí’s Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney said, “We are delighted to have launched this ongoing campaign in the Newry area. The turnout tonight is testament to the fact that the PSNI have been waging an unrelenting campaign of harassment and intimidation in Newry through the use of stop and searches and various other means.
“I have no doubt that the people who attended this launch have left here tonight with a better understanding of their rights when confronted by the state forces. This is just one example of how we need to educate, organise and agitate within our communities and éirígí will not be found wanting when it comes to that.”