A picket called on the British Embassy to protest against continuing internment and special courts was harassed and kept under heavy surveillance by Irish police, both in uniform and in plainclothes, with marked and unmarked vehicles.
The protest was called by Irish Socialist Republicans, Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland, Dublin Anti-Internment Committee and Abolish the Special Courts campaign, was supported by members of a number of Republican and socialist organisations and independent activists.
The objective of the protest was to highlight that the undemocratic practices of using the courts to remove the political opponents of those in power continues – the use of the courts”as a propaganda cover … to remove unwanted members of the public”, in the words of Brigadier Frank Kitson (British Army). These abuses of civil rights continue through a number of methods: revoking of ex-prisoners’ licences; refusal of bail; granting of bail under conditions preventing political activity; convictions in special no-jury courts. And they continue in both administrations: the Six-County British colony and the 26-County Irish state.
The harassment of the protesters outside the British Embassy was at a level to which Irish Republicans have become unfortunately accustomed: a Garda officer in plain clothes identifying himself as a member of the Special Branch and displaying his Garda identification request, accompanied by another, approached those in the picket line and required them to give their names and addresses, quoting Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act1.
This practice of taking people’s names and addresses is one of intimidation which does restrain some new people from joining such pickets. The surveillance has the same intent, being visible; highly visible on this occasion with three unmarked SB cars, two Garda cyclists and one marked patrol car (in addition to the Garda officer permanently on duty outside the Embassy). “Remember this the next time you hear or read that the Gardaí were unable to respond to a domestic violence call for a number of hours because they were “short on resources’ “, commented one of the protesters. “Or unable to refer young offenders into the Diversion Program2” added another.
The drivers of a number of vehicles, especially taxis, tooted their horns in solidarity as they passed. Although the cold was penetrating through footwear to feet, the protest ended a little after an hour.
1The section authorises those questions by a Garda officer who has reasonable grounds for suspecting the interrogated may be committing or about to commit a crime – clearly inapplicable in most cases where this is used.
2https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/garda-report-shows-3500-children-escaped-prosecution-for-crimes-898197.html Although this report highlights the victims of the crimes, the youth themselves became victims of a life of mostly low-level crime and associated lifestyles of early substance use, early parenthood and, later jail and, in many cases, early death.