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By Jason Michael
ON ROUTE TO BELFAST, after speaking to Scottish independence supporters in Fife, I was called aside by a police officer at Cairnryan ferry terminal for a “random security check” as I waited to board my sailing. The officer asked for my identification, my name, date and place of birth, my home address in Dublin, and the reason for my trip to Scotland. Once the officer was happy with my answers, I was allowed to continue on into the departure lounge. Moments later, however, the same officer came into the departure lounge and asked if I would accompany her into an interview room at the opposite side of the security and check-in area.
Since 2014, when I began writing pro-independence articles for the Butterfly Rebellion website and then on my own blog, Random Public Journal, I have always been randomly selected for security checks at Cairnryan – when, most often, no one else is selected. Until last night I chalked this down to coincidence, refusing to allow paranoia to run amok. These checks were not quite random after all. The officer told me that I had become an “interesting person” and that she was aware her colleagues had pulled me aside a number of times in the past, before she informed me that I was now being interviewed under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act (2000).
It is important to say, at this point, that the three officers who spoke with me over the course of the two hour “examination” were entirely friendly and courteous. They were keen to impress upon me that I “was not in trouble” and that I was “not,” as far as they were aware, “suspected of a crime or involvement in terrorism.” The Terrorism Act does not require reasonable suspicion, someone can be stopped and interviewed simply because they are interesting. There was no hint of threat or intimidation from the police, and, in fact, the whole interview was good humoured – we had a bit of craic. One of the officers was a former member of the RUC and later the PSNI before coming to work for Police Scotland, and he and I chatted in great depth and at length. He made sure I had all the coffee I wanted and even took me out for a smoke.
As part of the process, my two mobile phones were taken away for inspection and later returned, my luggage was taken into another room and searched, and I was patted-down because “some people can get quite aggressive.” What interested them most was my notebook and the book I was reading. The notebook, my rambling thoughts on the Scottish independence campaign, contained phrases like “educate,” “agitate,” and “organise.” “Revolution” and “take the state” also piqued their interest. Quite unfortunately, I’m reading The Secret Army by J Bowyer Bell – a history of the IRA. Yes, they were rather interested in this – and understandably. What they really wanted to know was my thoughts on Scottish politics, Irish history, and Brexit. I was repeatedly asked about Brexit.
When the interview was over, of course, the ferry had sailed without me. The officers were most accommodating and made sure I was checked-in for the next sailing at 11.30pm, a bit of a bummer considering there would be no connection at the Belfast terminal into the city and that the next coach to Dublin would be three in the morning. But this wasn’t, as some suggested on social media, “harassment.” Terrorism is real, and the police do have a job to do. We can all understand this, and I assured the police who interviewed me that I did understand. Recently there was a car-bombing by dissident Republicans in Derry, and I am a card-carrying Republican – a member of Sinn Féin; a party with historical links to the Provisional IRA during the Troubles. By pulling me up, the police were doing their job and we do need policing like this.
But, still, the structures around this do cause me some concern. This was not a decision of individual police officers – perfectly decent as they were, this was the result of counter-terrorism intelligence, and that this has identified me as a person of interest is worrying.
Sinn Féin is a legal and democratic political party in both Ireland and the six counties. It has seats in Dáil Éireann, Stormont, and Westminster. The Good Friday Agreement effectively ended the war between physical force Republicanism and the British state in Ireland. In both Britain and Ireland my civil and political rights – my human rights, even – guarantee my freedom to be a member of a legal, peaceful, and democratic political party. Sinn Féin was first to condemn the car-bombing in Derry, saying that there is no place in politics for violence. That my membership of Sinn Féin makes me a person of interest to British Intelligence hints at an attitude, in the British state, towards Sinn Féin and Irish Republicanism that is all about control.
More concerning – because I think we can all get the Sinn Féin thing – is that my involvement, as a Scot, in the Scottish independence movement also made me a person of interest. Over the past month, in the course of my speaking tour of the movement in Scotland, there has been a discernible coordination between the unionist newspapers, the Scottish Conservative Party, and the security apparatus. At the very beginning of the tour, the Daily Mail, the Scotsman, and the Herald newspapers – clearly acting in concert – attempted to smear me, after I had reported on the dangers of the Good Friday Agreement collapsing as a result of Brexit, as an IRA sympathiser. This was immediately weaponised by a number of Tory MPs and MSPs in order to put pressure on the Scottish National Party – of which I am not a member – and to force Yes Invergordon and Yes Eastwood to cancel my visit to them. All of this has been going on amid increasing interest in me from the police. Any reasonable person would suspect coordination.
So, what is this all about? Why am I, a peaceful and democratic political campaigner, being subjected to this – why is everyone involved in Republican politics in Ireland and Independence politics in Scotland being subjected to this? British Intelligence is reading our Twitter and Facebook updates – even the “private” ones, and it has deemed us, quite rightly, a danger to the state. No longer are guns and bombs a danger to the state in Ireland, and the same is true for Scotland – thankfully, but now our democracy and our activism have become a danger to the British state – and so the British state is policing them. In being stopped by the police – who are simply following their orders – I am being reminded of the power of the state. This is bio-power, that exercise of power that reminds us that we are being watched. It is a style of power that forces us to police ourselves. It instils paranoia, the greatest friend of the bureaucratic and security state.
This style of political policing – all the way down from Whitehall in London to the police officer doing her or his job – has one objective: To subtly and then not-so-subtly intimidate people. The hope is that it will put average, law-abiding people off activism. No one wants to be of interest – no matter how friendly they are – to the police, and less still want to be watched by the intelligence services of the state. But what this is, in reality, is an attempt on the part of the British state to disempower us – the electorate, the demos of the democracy. Being politically active is a duty. In a democracy it is both a right and a duty. But being politically active does not stop at the ballot box. Our vote is power, and every power comes with responsibility. That responsibility is our political activism and our determination to ensure our voices are heard and that those we elect are kept good. Subtly intimidating people out of activism weakens people, and a democracy without political activism is no democracy at all. In reality, it is a type of tyranny.
As we get closer to independence in Scotland and as Ireland draws closer to unification – id est the dismantling of the British state, what we are witnessing is a creeping police state. This is profoundly undemocratic and bears all the hallmarks of fascism and latent despotism and totalitarianism. The moment democracy becomes a real danger to the state – even to the so-called democratic state, democracy becomes an enemy of the state. What I have now experienced is a slip of the veil, the mask of the democratic state was momentarily lifted – exposing a glimpse of what is to come; random checks, interview, caution, arrest, prison, and more – and for what? It is most interesting, to me at least, that Conservative and Unionist activists are never detained by the police. This is the big give-away. What we have is a move – a return – to political policing.
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Reblogged this on Ramblings of a 50+ Female.
To think that in my youth my greatest aspiration was to be mentioned in Private Eye.
How times have changed.
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Just wondering if anyone else of your acquaintance has been pulled aside recently coming from Ireland to Scotland🇮🇪🏴?
Thank you for this excellent piece. There are many of us who simply blog and write, but do not speak in public who might perhaps be concerned about the extent to which our outpourings are scrutinised by the assorted organs of this hideous assemblage of powers that conveniently goes under the name of the British State. Not so long ago, I experienced this when I was interviewed by an enthusiastic BBC researcher about my attitude to cancer and the languages used to talk about it. She was sympathetic and keen to write a piece about my attitude to the disease, about which I write in great detail at my blog. I sent her the link for greater detail and context. Nothing further happened, but I did notice a substantial increase in traffic at my blog and assumed this was the BBC checking me out. A few days later I received a most apologetic phone-call with lame excuses, to which I responded that I had noticed increased traffic at the blog and said that I suspected I was being checked out. Of course the BBC would never sanction my views nor would it deliberately give me any publicity simply because I do not separate my cancer experiences from my ‘political’ ramblings. Of course I blogged immediately about it:
Thank you once again for a most informative piece. I thin now we are moving into very ‘interesting’ times indeed.
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Reblogged this on It's shite being Scottish and commented:
I do not often reblog. But this piece stands out for me as extremely important. The writer is a not only a blogger, but also speaks in public and so he is a little more prominent. As my recent experience with the BBC has taught me, perhaps too the various organs of the British State are also becoming interested in those of us who only write. If this is the case, then we are entering extremely dangerous times indeed.
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At present things may appear friendly. Sure, it will all be fine….until it isn’t. I hope you stay safe.
I agree, you should always be of friendly demeanour and never antagonise the police. However, people never know what comments said in openness can be turned against you…Even when they are truthful and fully innocent. I know this is USA but the logic of this example shook me when I saw it. https://youtu.be/Vi434yXk_qo?t=352
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There is a world of difference between an interesting person and a person of interest. Maybe we should all become the latter and make the term worthless.
Check your phones for bugs?
Fascism is alive and well in westmonster!
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In the history of tyranny world wide, the poet/orator has always been deemed more dangerous than the sniper, and the first to be subdued.
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Thanks for this, Jason! You have my prayers and best wishes. “Non illegitimi carrburundum!” (Pretend Latin)
I think it is of considerable credit to yourself that you have and had the decency and morality to remain calm , objective and responsible in your interaction with these officers , who as you said were resiprocal to you .
But that doesn’t escape the feeling of upset and concern that you are being targeted due to your belief and support that your country Scotland deserves to be self determining and making it’s own decisions . As you have recently stated openly on your blog you are a pacifist and despise the use of violence which makes it even more annoying and concerning
Everyone agrees that the safety and security of citizens is paramount and that steps have to be taken to ensure that security , but at what point are you considered to be an innocent citizen with genuine beliefs and aims who expresses their opinions verbally and through the written word , is this some form of macarthyism now being introduced
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“….safety and security of citizens…”
Was this really an exercise in safety and security of citizens?
Sure it is the actions done when undertaking safety. However, just like in sausage making – there is the important act of using other parts of the animal in the best way possible….However, using sausage to hide all sorts of detrimental nasty additives is not the same. Just because it looks the same on the outside doesn’t mean it is the same thing. Isn’t this the arguments that led to BSE????
Jason’s safety and security is also important. Targeted political intimidation of legal actions is not conducive to his safety or any of the Scottish population.
It is like we are watching the end of the enlightenment in action.
Tol just to be clear I wasn’t condoning the actions or reasons taken to interrupt Jason’s journey again , on the contrary I was commending his handling of the situation with patience and courtesy .I would much much rather these officers were engaged in investigating the corruption endemic in wastemonster and the prevalence of dark money available to destroy our supposed democracy . That the senior levels of police forces and the supposed guardians of the people are more concerned and interested by the Scottish people’s determination to become independent fills me with horror
This is quite an interesting one, but as far as this incident is concerned I think this summarises it nicely: “By pulling me up, the police were doing their job and we do need policing like this.”.
Yes, and if we were sitting in 2020 in Independent Scotland, perhaps after a no-deal Brexit and no Backstop, and let’s just say, some unrest in NI, then I daresay we’d hope the same would happen when someone tweets a certain phrase from the IRA handbook without attributing it or putting it in quotes (yes, I saw the later picture half-explaining it). Put that into the mix with an activist tour, speeches and meetings and if I was Chief Constable of Police Scotland for Independent Scotland, or head of the Scottish Security and Intelligence Service, you’d be red-flagged and become indeed “a person of interest”.
Those of us who go back to the Cold War days will doubtless remember the allegations that half the Labour Party were communist party members, and other allegations that they were investigated and watched by Special Branch. But also that there were some “terrorist” type small groups supposedly i Scotland when Indy reared its “ugly” head in the 70s. Like taking action against pipelines. Well, I daresay they were rightly investigated at the time. Personally I think modern-day Sean is harmless, though perhaps not to the cause of Indy.
Where the line can be drawn between sensible precautions, and political intererence is another matter. But it would seem sensible to be careful to actually say what we mean to say in tweets (I don’t do twitter), or even in posts below the line on forums. It’s too easy to be misunderstood.
Don’t quite know where to begin with this one, but reporting on the facts in Ireland is what I do. I have said nothing on Twitter or anywhere else that is not a fact – and a well known fact – in these matters. But sure, thanks for the comment.
No worries and thanks for the reply.
I read this linked by the famous links poster on WOS, and was going to reply just about the ferry thing, but had to go out. When I came back I re-read it as is wise, and saw it quite differently, specially after that line of yours I quoted above.
I like what I call “thought pieces” Jeggit, and these are articles, blogs or posts that you neither have to agree with or disagree with, they stand in their own right. Yours is one such. Particularly during Indy Ref 1 and nearer the start, I used to upvote even unionist postings if they were well put together, without bothering usually to argue the points, Perhaps just with a reply “Good post, even if I don’t agree”. You get a lot less of those these days, the sensible unionists largely seem to have disappeared. I wonder why!
Anyways, good luck, don’t let the security bugs bite.
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Please God , this is not the thin edge of the wedge……
They are using the wrong law to pick on you. It was passed because of IS not the Scots or the Irish. Worrying move towards a country we don’t want to be part of.
This is exactly what I have been warning people about. They, the British State , are quietly putting things in place so that they can do to us as Spain has done to Catalonia. I am deeply concerned for Scotland and Northern Ireland about the direction the British establishment are taking. However, I would say, they will try this at their pearl, I cannot see the people taking such actions in their stride. I, for one, would be on the streets and fight with everything I have for our freedom regardless of my safety.
More of this to come, more people will be treated like this
Just….Well said! Just by commenting I’ve probably become of more interest to the ‘State’
In cases such as this, the worry is, the real criminals are getting away with actual crimes. It also means that vital funds, public funds, are being spent on harassing innocent people. The dangerous ones are in positions of power, or at least are supported by those in positions of power. Imagine an innocent person, stopped and questioned, while the criminal walks right past the police, laughing their socks off! It’s not impossible.
It’s all getting Kafkaesque, and it’s scary as hell. What a world humans are fashioning, and for what? Greed, simple, it’s about money, power and greed. I know the police have to ‘follow orders’ but the question is, how far would they go in following those orders? It’s always a mystery how people can be brutal towards others in that context, ( they weren’t in this instance, but I am thinking say, Catalonia) yet go home to their families, and not think, blimey, what if that was my kid, or brother or sister, or anyone I am connected to that I trust and love? What then?
Talking about real criminals walking by and laughing their socks off.
As I have bern saying for at least 12 months. It is impossible to process 12,000 trucks a day at Dover. The port was rebuilt and the Chunnel was designed and built as an open EU one.
Grayling’s traffic jam was media deception.
QUIETLY Dept Transport admit that no port checks will take place for at least a year and all trucks arriving will have a cursery eye taken on their docs and then waved through.
Can you ever imagine how much drugs, guns and trafficed humans will arrive in these trucks?
Most enlightening, thank you. This only makes me feel even more sure that Independence is not only essential, but also imminent. My wee bit of activism will continue x
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