The following statement was read by Saoradh representatives at a recent press conference covering draconian legislation introduced by the British Establishment to target Republican activists.
“We as Saoradh members have called you here tonight to highlight the use of the so-called ‘Terror Register’ against former political prisoners in the Occupied Six Counties. This address is intended for the attention of all those in Ireland and, indeed, throughout the world who are concerned with human rights and state oppression.
Throughout Irish history, the use of oppressive penal and judicial measures has been a key weapon in the British arsenal. The Special Powers Act, internment without trial and brutal interrogation and torture techniques are among the various tactics used throughout the past few decades alone that draw ire and criticism from many quarters in our society. Yet it seems that this new draconian legislation is being all but ignored by these same elements.
Indeed so free from challenge and criticism this legislation has been, that this will be new to many who hear what we have to say today. It will undoubtedly shock many that this legislation has been put in place with the full acquiescence of their so-called political leaders.
Before we deal directly with the terror register, it must be noted that the terror register is not the sole issue. For the general public, it has been the common belief that individuals who are arrested and convicted spend a term and gaol, and are to be released to resume their lives having served that time. This, however, has proven insufficient for successive British conservative and labour governments. Through their economic, political and social policies they have run the working people in the UK into the depths of desperation. They couldn’t even fathom the ideas of social equality or economic redistribution to deal with the so-called crime which inevitably arose from this. Instead, they began enacting increasingly draconian legal measures. This included indeterminate and extended sentences, and post-release licenses. The people of the six counties too have been faced with this. Of course, it is not the white-collar criminals who have fleeced the public of millions who face these conditions, it is the young women and men of working-class communities.
This punitive approach was enthusiastically applied then to political prisoners. Indeterminate sentences which the EU ruled as “arbitrary and unlawful” in 2012 are sentences which can see someone sentenced to only two years in prison yet they can then be held indefinitely for life. Extended sentences similarly see people convicted for short periods, and then held instead for many years after a preliminary release date. Post-release licenses which have been revoked in a number of cases are also a means of re-imprisoning political activists without charge or even bringing them to a court. This system has proven flawed in several recent occasions when the PSNI and Stormont officials, and indeed MI5 have been found to have lied as a basis to have licenses revoked. The license conditions too have been further restricted with released prisoners being tagged and also subjected to requirements to present themselves daily at barracks. Other former prisoners have been prevented from returning home to loved ones in the 26 Counties, including those with life-threatening illnesses. Irish people are literally being excluded from parts of their own country. Bail conditions too have been used to grant limited freedom to prisoners, giving a facade of normalcy and due process, attempting to distract from the fact that people are being remanded and/or awaiting trial for years. These conditions have included requirements to present themselves at barracks at unsociable hours and times, and to be tagged, curfewed, subjected to contact and travel restrictions and so forth.
This is the legislative and penal environment in which the so-called terror register has grown. The 2008 introduction of the terror register and the intensifying of its draconian tenets in 2019 has demonstrated the relentless determination of Britain and its lackies to implement harsher legislation as a means of dissuading those who may challenge the status quo. It is important for political activists from various shades to remember that this legislation was initially coached in terms of combating so-called Islamic fundamentalism. It wasn’t long however before it was being used against Irish Republicans. Similarly, there is a wide range of activists, from social, environmental, and rights agitators who could find themselves falling foul of this legislation and finding themselves being subject to its draconian stipulations for ten years.
The terror register provided for annual photographing, signing, fingerprinting, phone number and also informing the PSNI of addresses and travelling for more than three days outside the jurisdiction. This was in addition to license conditions. The 2019 additions to the existing restrictions have been even more archaic and cruel in their nature. They have seen the additional requirement of all bank account details- which has already seen the unexplained suspension and closure of accounts; car registrations and all vehicles you may have excess to, email accounts, any travel information- now even if leaving the jurisdiction for one night, the route you intend to take, travel companions and passport details. It has also increased the power of the PSNI to enter the homes of and also imprison those subject to the register on a whim. Those who don’t comply with these barely believable conditions will be subjected to massive fines and imprisonment.
It’s hardly imaginable to most people that they would be expected to sacrifice the most private details of their lives to the state. This has a massive detrimental impact in psychological terms, with constant pressure of being surveilled and watched. The emotional pressure resulting from this impacts not only those subject to the conditions but their children, families and loved ones. Employment, education and social lives are disrupted or ruined completely.
This is the most regressive and draconian legislation to be implemented since the Special Powers Act. Indeed it is reflective of oppression internationally which is oft-criticised by those who remain silent at home. In Palestine former political prisoners have been subjected to exclusion orders, notification orders and administrative detention. There is a clear trend in the tactics of international imperialism.
As for Ireland, the trend of international resistance to this imperialism will remain steadfast. We would urge the public to assess the potential implications of these measures and to oppose them accordingly. We would encourage the public to ask also where the opposition to these measures is from the parties throughout Ireland who so often moralise and preach to the media. We will be clear here today in any case that Political activists will not be deterred by these methods or any others from achieving our goal of a Socialist Republic- the British empire could not silence us in the past and their efforts today will similarly be in vain!“