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Cereal Offender

Anthony McIntyre considers the possible motives behind the arrest and prosecution of Nuala Perry.

For those inclined to read intent in linear fashion straight back from outcome, then one glaring conclusion would be that the purpose of the Derry street bombing was to put Saoradh, the self-proclaimed Irish republican revolutionary political party, out of business. As there was no other discernible outcome, no tangible beneficiary other than the security services or Sinn Fein, and no explanation from those who planted the device forthcoming, it is reasonable to see why many are tempted to infer motive from result even if it is not a reliable gauge, ignoring as it does the law of unintended consequences.

The republican activist, Saoradh member and prisoners’ rights campaigner Nuala Perry was arrested a year after her home had been raided by British police and items seized. Her arrest taking place within a week of the detonation of the Derry car bomb is germane. That attack more than the documents which the PSNI already had in its possession for a year, arguably was the determining factor in the decision to grip her.

Immediately after that bomb, in an exercise described as cynical by a law firm with access to proceedings, the PSNI targeted Saoradh through a series of arrests and house raids. There was no evidence on which to base the arrests, unless bias constitutes evidence – in the North’s British Diplock courts bias has every chance of succeeding. If the PSNI believed that the Derry arrests were aimed at bombers, they have a strange way of conducing their investigation: they never raised one incriminating question about it during at least one of the interviews. Which allows the inference to drawn that it was primarily an exercise in hobbling Saoradh.

It is this assault on the democratic right of a political party to organise and function which forms the backdrop to the arrest and subsequent prosecution of Nuala Perry. One of the effects of her detention and prosecution was the enhancement of an image already created by the contrived Derry arrests of Saoradh culpability in the Bishop Street attack. 

Perry stands accused on:
two counts of collecting or making a record of information likely to be useful to terrorists - namely a security debrief regarding the police recovery of firearms, ammunition and explosives.
Lots of mundane things can be of use to terrorists. Parachute regiment lawyers gathering information on people who accuse the regiment of mass murder In Belfast and Derry in 1971 and 1972, would be in possession of information “likely to be useful to terrorists”; those state terrorists who under the command of “Massacre Mike” Jackson gunned down unarmed civilian populations. The real question about any information possessed must be apropos to intent: whether it is gathered in order to be useful to terrorists for the purposes of commissioning terrorist acts, as in the cases of Bloody Sunday or Ballymurphy.

Perry, when charged, replied "that she had not collected any information for any illegal organisation, adding that she is only a member of republican political party Saoradh.” The implication being that if she collected any information at all it was legitimately done for Saoradh.

The PSNI have draconian form here. An eirigi activist, Stephen Murney was prosecuted a couple of years back for uploading photographs of the PSNI onto Facebook, something the force also tried to label as terrorist. In 2014, the charges against him were thrown out but only after he had served some time in prison. The judge in that case said:
There is no evidence before this court that Éirígí supports violence, or has argued for violent action to be taken against the police, or that the organisation is directly linked to those that support terrorist activity.
Sounds familiar.

Because the PSNI lie so routinely, there is absolutely no reason to believe without substantive independent verification its claim that the material allegedly obtained from Perry’s home was related to subversion of anything other than the PSNI's reputation: hardly an offence even if the PSNI would like it to be otherwise. She has a public profile, comments quite frequently on social media, writes letters to the newspapers, is interviewed by journalists and academics, and for a long time was a regular on TPQ. There seems nothing remarkable that she might keep notes about matters that could prove useful to the public and that she had intended to at some point write, comment on or pass onto journalists. If it was recorded simply for party purposes, no transgression. No political party wants spied on or face infiltration.

Stated without frills, the PSNI is trying to dissuade citizens from collecting information useful to a public that has a right to know what the police does, supposedly for the public good. For those who don't know, the PSNI has, via cover-up, a long history of blocking public access to information it should have. It even arrested journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey to press home this point.

What Perry stands accused of and the evidence to support any serious charge seems both dubious and tenuous. Not only is the prosecution vindictively inspired but that the PPS should so vigorously oppose bail – and have an actual stay put on the decision to grant bail resulting in Perry spending a weekend in jail - is instructive.

Saoradh Béal Feirste referred to “draconian and repressive British Court imposed bail conditions that we believe are in contravention of her right to freedom of expression and political expression.” This is in reference to the High Court judge reportedly ruling that she must “abide by restrictions on social media postings.” That ruling was deposited on top of the sediment of an earlier condition imposed by the lower court that prohibited Ms Perry “having access to any internet enabled communications.” It is not a first. Jamie Bryson was also subjected to a bail gagging condition.

The silencers have for the most part been met with silence. Journalism has been staying stum, in spite of what is in front of its nose, hoping that Martin Niemöller was just joking when saying First they came …

The wider PSNI assault on freedom of inquiry can be read as an attempt to police societal behaviour to the point where citizens think it is a real crime rather than a thought crime to collate information on the PSNI that is useful to democratic transparency.  As a means to both circumvent and ridicule that assault, those who wish to see openness should consider invoking the act "as if" principle: in the way that in the segregationist deep Southern states of America, "Rosa Parks decided to act "as if" a hardworking black woman could sit down on a bus at the end of the day's labour."

In the North that would mean behaving as if the PSNI is not censorious, as if it is not seeking to thwart the free flow of ideas, as if it is not performing a thought police role, as if it is not involved in widespread cover up of the state's role in the North's Dirty War, as if it is primarily concerned with upholding the rule of law rather than the rule of law enforcement. In short, pretend to believe the pretence and act literally to play ironically so that the PSNI "can be relatively easily made to look stupid." 

Nuala Perry is charged with writing something on cigarette papers about Rice Crispies. That makes her a cereal offender, not somebody ready to launch a Michael Stone type attack on the institutions of the state. Something smells in the North's Cop Land - and it is not perfume.


Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill. Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

2 comments to ''Cereal Offender "

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  1. Sounds like nonsense. The thing is most people simply accept the phraseology 'useful to terrorists' as enough for reasonable suspicion.

    There is not a household throughout these neighbouring islands that does not contain information or items that can be construed as 'useful to terrorists'.

    The threshold for what constitutes as 'useful to terrorists' is extremely low. To give it some perspective, if we apply airport regulations then any household with bottles containing more than 100ml of liquid is a potential bomb factory and having multiple of 2litre bottles or larger has potential of being a terrorists homemade nuclear reactor.

    What is disgusting about this is that Sinn Fein have become subscribers to this sort of hype.

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  2. Its terrifying. What is more terrifying is that 20 years on from the GFA apparently no one is protesting these types of injustices anymore. Radio silence from the nationalist/republican community. I can't help but think that maybe if nationalists/republicans spent a little less time bashing Israel and focusing their efforts on a conflict thousands of miles away that has absolutely nothing to do with them and instead focusing their efforts on the countless serious issues and problems at home that are affecting the North these types of injustices might be a thing of the past.

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