Irish republican Stephen Murney on the PSNI

He said in an interview with the Ancient Order of Hibernians here:
"Despite the claims to the contrary by members of both constitutional nationalist parties in the Six Counties and by the establishment parties in the Free State, very little substantial change has occurred in respect of policing in the North. 
The name of the police force may have changed, but let’s not forget that the PSNI is a fully armed force with access to the most modern weaponry. It still operates under a whole raft of very draconian and far-reaching so-called ‘anti-terror’ legislation.
While the titles of the police force and the legislation that force has access to may have changed over the years, there is little to differentiate between supposedly modern, reformed policing and that which took place under the RUC and the legislation available to that force in previous decades. 
Let’s not forget that two key demands of nationalists in the Six Counties for decades were for a totally unarmed police force and an end to all repressive legislation.
Neither of those two demands has been met. 
As is the case across the Six Counties, in the Newry area where I live, harassment of political activists and their families and friends has continued unabated. Stop and searches occur on an almost daily basis, house raids are a regular occurrence.
My own home had been raided by the PSNI several times over the years under legislation such as the Terror Act 2000. I was also subjected to dozens of stop-and searches. 
I and other members of the party had started to record and collate all those incidents of PSNI harassment of activists and members of the general public in the Newry area. It is true that I did photograph members of the PSNI when they were carrying out stop and searches or when they were harassing people in general. I also photographed and recorded the PSNI’s heavy-handed response to various pickets and public protests in Newry. 
Indeed, it’s also worth pointing out that on one occasion the photos I had taken were used by a defence solicitor to totally repudiate and discredit statements made by PSNI personnel during the trial of a local man accused of assault on the PSNI. 
I mainly used those various photographs to accompany press releases which were sent to local newspapers or to the éirígí website to highlight the abuse of powers by the PSNI.
I was also documenting and recording these cases, as well as PSNI harassment of myself, for the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) based in Belfast. CAJ is an independent human rights organisation with a cross-community membership established in 1981 and it lobbies and campaigns on a broad range of human rights issues. It regularly submits report to the UN and other international bodies. 
Indeed, a CAJ report called ‘Still Part Of Life Here?’ was published in November 2012, just before my arrest. It may seem ironic now, but that report included details of oppressive policing in the Newry area that I had submitted to them.
So it’s against that backdrop that one needs to view my arrest.
Quite obviously, the PSNI in the Newry area took exception to the frequent adverse coverage of their actions in the local papers which I was securing through my role as PRO for the party in the town. 
Added to that was the fact that, through my reporting of incidents to CAJ, the PSNI’s actions were coming under the spotlight of a far wider, international audience. 
When I was charged, the charges mainly related to those photographs. The other charges regarding my old band uniforms and my son’s toy guns, which the PSNI claimed to be ‘items for use in terrorist purposes’, were added as ‘window-dressing’ to make their case appear stronger than it actually was. 
You initially were granted bail, which you refused to accept: can you explain why?  
While the High Court in Belfast granted bail, it should be remembered that the conditions were very draconian. Those conditions included: 
  • A ban on living with my partner and child at our home in Newry  
  • A requirement that I reside at a location vetted by the PSNI at least five miles from Newry 
  • A ban on entering the city of Newry for any purpose including visits to the doctor – even if advanced notice of such visits were supplied to the PSNI. 
  • A ban on attending any meetings or other events of a political nature. 
  • A strict curfew that would require me to remain within the specified address between the hours of 7pm and 10am. 
  • A requirement that I wear an electronic tagging device at all times. 
  • A requirement that I reported daily to Newtownhamilton PSNI barracks which is located a further twelve miles from my bail address. 
Neither I nor my partner drives so even seeing each other would have been difficult under those conditions. We certainly could not have had anything that came close to the normal family life we had been used to. 
The extreme bail conditions which the court sought to impose upon me amounted to a form of collective punishment for my partner, children and wider family.
They were also clearly designed to ‘criminalise’ and punish me for legitimate political activism. 
I have no doubt that, had I accepted those bail conditions, I would have breached them through no fault of my own as the conditions, as a whole, were designed in such a way to make it impossible for me to avoid breaking them.
For example, I receive regular medical treatment. If I had to see my doctor urgently and went to his surgery in Newry, I would have been classed as having breached the bail conditions. 
What’s your plans for the future and has the whole experience reinforced your resolve as a republican? 
I intend to continue with my political activism and I have already re-involved myself with éirígí. 
The past 14/15 months have, if anything, reinforced my view that the supposed changes which have taken place in the Six Counties during the last decade and a half have been largely cosmetic. 
Peel back that cosmetic veneer and you will find a state that still is under British control, where people’s lives are still subjected to repressive policing and draconian laws; a state that is a failure both politically and economically. 
It has helped me learn a lot about Republican prison struggle and what prison life for Republicans entails, particularly when faced with an oppressive and restrictive regime such as the one in place in Maghaberry where the brutal and inhumane practice of strip-searching of prisoners still take place as a matter of routine. 
It is also important to emphasise that I am not the only victim of malicious persecution and prosecution by the PSNI. 
There are other cases of injustice which are still ongoing and it’s very important that they are also publicly highlighted and supported. I would intend to assist in that. 

In full here. Irish nationalist Conall McDevitt said of the PSNI in an interview with Alan in Belfast for Slugger O'Toole here:
"The PSNI is the most accountable police service in the European Union, more accountable than the Gardaí are. So they might like the idea of regional police service in Northern Ireland and the Gardaí still policing elsewhere in the island."

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