18th July 2002
Senior PSNI Officers - Threat to Peace
Speaking at a press conference in Belfast today Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly said:
"Senior British Officials and senior members of the PSNI have been setting the public and media agenda for the British government. The danger is that they could be setting the British governments Political agenda as well.
"Against a backdrop of the now traditional sectarian violence against nationalists and Catholics from loyalists and supporters of the orange Order they were involved in an intense series of misleading briefings.
"Initially they deliberately sought to mislead Irish government officials about republican intentions in relation to the Orange Order march through Ardoyne. Myself and others were dealing with these officials in the days immediately before July 12th and they were being told that republicans were planning a violent response to the Orange Order march.
"Then these groundless allegations surfaced in the public domain when the PSNI's Belfast commander Alan McQuillan told a press conference that republicans in Ardoyne were preparing for a riot.
"When the fictitious riot in Ardoyne failed to materialise, despite the provocative behaviour of the Orange Order, the PSNI then manufactured a find of material which they claimed was evidence that republicans were stockpiling weapons for a riot.
"The alleged find was in fact security fencing on the roofs of the Ardoyne shops and Credit Union. This was procured by the PSNI and put on display in a desperate attempt to justify the spurious claims by the British officials and the PSNI.
"I have no doubt that the private briefings and the McQuillan press conference exacerbated an already charged atmosphere and could well have led to violent confrontation. The intention, I suspect, was to contrive a violent context as the backdrop to the statement from British Prime Minister Tony Blair next week.
"These activities are being directed by the securocrats in the British system. John Reid needs to stop members of his administration who are involved in activities which are damaging the peace process."
Subverting Peace on our Streets
- Briefings by the PSNI - and I believe these were down to Alan McQuillan - throughout the week sought to create a climate of tension and an expectation of violence in Ardoyne on 12 July.
- These off-the-record briefings and private reports were directed at the media, the Irish Government, the US Administration and others. * The briefings included allegations that the IRA intended to set up road blocks in Kilrea, Co. Derry, and to create 'mayhem'; and that busloads of men from Tyrone were to be moved into Ardoyne before 12 July.
- On the ground a spy camera was erected in Ardoyne, away from the interface it was allegedly to monitor, as a deliberate provocation. * On Wednesday 10 July a joint British Army/police force invaded Ardoyne. Commercial premises were shut down and residents were threatened with arrest. Residents were kept under what was effectively house arrest for several hours.
- On Wednesday evening the briefings continued. This time it was claimed that violence was being planned by republicans in Ardoyne.
- Alan McQuillan then held an on-the-record press conference on the evening of Thursday 11th July.
- Here, revealingly at one point when pressed on one issue, he said he was not prepared to comment on-the-record. Revealing because it indicates that Alan McQuillan has been behind many of the off-the-record briefings which have appeared in the media as "security assessments" from "a security source". That is, matters which cannot be substantiated are issued as propaganda material.
- The McQuillan press conference warned of "IRA violence".
- Gerry Kelly cautioned people about falling into the trap McQuillan was attempting to set.
- In a tactic he had previously employed in Derry 4 years ago McQuillan claimed he had evidence of preparations for violence; he claimed to have evidence of petrol bombs and acid bombs being made and in a variation of the 'busloads of men from Tyrone' yarn, he said publicly that young people were being bussed in.
- Ardoyne was flooded with British Army and PSNI personnel on Friday morning 12th July, many clearly in search of violent confrontation. Up to a dozen alsation dogs were put facing the peaceful protestors but removed when the adverse PR imagery became apparent to the PSNI commander on the ground.
- By mid-morning and without incident the anti-Catholic march was forced through a Catholic area. Alan McQuillan was challenged but refused to reveal how many of his men on duty in Ardoyne, Short Strand and the Springfield Road were also members of the Orange Order. This is a valid question. It requires an answer.
- Having failed in his self-fulfilling prophesy of violence McQuillan moved, hours after the morning parade was forced through Ardoyne, to justify the deliberate hype he had injected into the situation. Security fencing which had been retrieved by the British Army at 5:30 a.m. on Friday 12th July from the Ardoyne Credit Union was produced for a further press conference. Here the PSNI claimed that these 'weapons' had been specifically 'manufactured' for the event and were to be thrown at the British Army, the PSNI and Orange Order members. Photographs of these bogus 'weapons', propagating the lie, were given widespread media coverage including in the USA. The lie was half-way around the world in hours. In fact the PSNI knew about the security fencing from at least Monday 8th July as they had discussed it with the Credit Union manager. They also knew it had been on the roof for over a year (i.e. before the violence the previous Summer) when the PSNI informed the manager that they would remove it.
- The PSNI also put on show crates of empty beer bottles which they took from behind a local pub claiming them as weapons also.
- What was not given the same media attention was photographs produced by late afternoon which had been taken by an independent international observer who had been on duty at 5:30 a.m. in Ardoyne. These clearly show the British Army removing the security fencing from the roof.
- The return march by the Orange Order, accompanied by large numbers of supporters, many of whom were drunk and drinking, were forced through Ardoyne again by the PSNI and the British Army.
- The provocative siting of a spy camera, two invasions by the PSNI and British Army, private and public lies by Alan McQuillan and the fabricated weapons provocation failed to get McQuillan the result he sought. The trap failed.
- The greater issue however is the threat to peace on our streets posed by securocrats like Alan McQuillan. This is unacceptable.
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