Many socialists are aware of the continued repressive role of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (the old RUC) when it comes to dealing with legal Republican opposition in the ‘Six Counties’. However, this article highlights the role of the Irish police force, the garda, in its attempts to suppress legal political activity in the ’26 counties’. Eirigi is a socialist republican organisation, with a councillor, Louise Minihan, on Dublin City Council.
On Thursday evening (February 6) two éirígí election workers were assaulted by a member of the Garda Special Detective Unit – more commonly known as the ‘Special Branch’. The assaults mark a significant escalation in the ongoing campaign of harassment of éirígí activists by the Dublin government’s political police.
The incident occurred at 20.50 on Claddagh Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin as three éirígí activists finished up delivering local election material to homes in the area. As the trio, Scott Masterson, Daithí Ó Riain and Dónall Ó Ceallaigh were walking along Claddagh Road a red Ford Mondeo, registration number 04 D 1915, approached the footpath at speed before coming to a dramatic halt.
As the vehicle came to a halt the passenger shouted at the three activists through his open window. As the passenger did not identify himself the three activists sensibly continued to walk onwards. The passenger then attempted to exit the Mondeo, again shouting as he did so. It was at this point that the individual first identified himself as a Garda. In his haste to exit the vehicle the as yet unidentified individual tripped and stumbled.
Having recovered his footing the individual then proceded to firmly grab Scott Masterson by his two biceps and forcibly attempted to push him backwards, an effort which Masterson peacefully resisted.
During this unprovoked assault the individual was continuously shouting and demanding Masterson’s name in a very aggressive manner. When asked by Masterson to produce identification to confirm that he was a Garda, as all plain-clothes Gardaí are required to do, the individual said that he would not. Masterson then informed the individual that he would not reveal his name until he was satisfied that the individual was in fact a Garda.
Despite requests the individual also refused to provide the full legal basis under which he was acting, instead only vaguely referring to Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act. This represented another breach of a legal requirement. The individual went on to state that his name was ‘Michael Ryan’, but failed to produce identification to confirm this.
As Masterson and Ó Riain continued to remonstrate with ‘Michael Ryan’ the driver of the Mondeo (presumed to also be a member of the Special Branch) approached and addressed the two activists by name, as ‘Mr Masterson’ and ‘Ó Riain’ – thus confirming the entirely spurious nature of ‘Michael Ryan’s’ demand for their names.
As ‘Michael Ryan’ continued to manhandle Masterson, Daithí Ó Riain, challenged him to produce identification and put it to the individual that he believed that he was not ‘Michael Ryan’ but was in fact Detective B*****. Ó Riain had previously been stopped by Detective B*****, who closely resembled ‘Michael Ryan’.
When the name ‘B*****’ was put to ‘Michael Ryan’ he reacted extremely violently by turning his attack on Dónall Ó Ceallaigh, whom he lunged at, grabbing him by his coat and propelling him backwards into a wall. He then proceeded to bodily swing Ó Ceallaigh around before propelling him towards the Mondeo car, on which Ó Ceallaigh was then effectively spread-eagled. Throughout this second assault ‘Michael Ryan’ aka ‘Detective B*****’ was continuously roaring and shouting at Ó Ceallaigh.
With the two members of the Special Branch still refusing to produce identification or to state the full legal basis under which they were acting the three activists informed them they would not be providing them with any information and proceeded to walk away.
By this time a number of residents, who had been alerted by all the shouting, were observing the scene from their windows and doors. ‘Michael Ryan’ and his associate then climbed back into their vehicle and apparently left the scene, only to emerge later to follow Masterson’s vehicle back to his home.
Speaking from Ballyfermot, Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan said, “Thursday’s harassment and assault of éirígí election workers by members of the Garda Special Branch was outrageous and completely unacceptable. The three lads showed great discipline in the face of this unprovoked attack. They also showed that they know their rights under the laws of this state and that they will not be intimidated by Special Branch bully boys.”
Minihan continued, “It is no coincidence that our activists were targeted in this way just two weeks after our party announced the candidates that will be contesting the local elections in both the Six and Twenty-Six Counties. éirígí activists are on the ground every day in Ballyfermot, working with local residents and families on a wide range of community issues, challenging austerity and promoting the socialist republican alternative.
“I have no doubt that the political police are well aware of the potential that éirígí is beginning to unlock from within this community and other communities across Ireland. I also have no doubt that tonight’s attack was designed to deter people from becoming politically active.”
Minihan went on to call on other political parties to condemn Thursday’s assault and political policing generally, “When secret police interfere in the electoral process in far off countries the likes of the Labour Party and Fine Gael are very quick to issue statements of condemnation, but they remain mute when it happens on our own streets. I am calling on all of the candidates that are running in this area to condemn what happened to our activists in Ballyfermot on Thursday night. It is simply not good enough for them to remain silent, while potentially benefitting from harassment and assault.”
Minihan concluded by thanking the residents of Claddagh Road and re-stating éirígí’s determination, “I would like to thank the local residents who came out of their homes to ensure our election workers were alright after Thursday night’s incident. It is little wonder that working class communities are losing faith in the Gardaí when they see them focused on political harassment instead of break-ins, anti-social behaviour and the open sale of drugs.
“For our part we will not be deterred from building a resistance movement in our communities, a movement that will one day bring an effective challenge to the puppet-masters who control the thugs of the Garda Special Branch. I want to again encourage people from the Ballyfermot area and beyond to join with us in building that movement for real change in Ireland.”