Police threaten journalist with legal action if she doesn’t reveal sources…

THE PSNI is threatening Sunday Tribune journalist Suzanne Breen – who reported the Real IRA’s claim of responsibility for the Massereene murders and shooting of Denis Donaldson – with legal action if she doesn’t reveal her paramilitary sources. For mainstream republicans, it must be disconcerting that political policing still goes on and the PSNI take such anti-democratic measures to trawl for information. For democrats who believe in a right to free expression, it is worrying that Press freedom is once again being eroded. Breen is not prepared to co-operate with the authorities; it is not her job to gather evidence for the police and to hand information over would harm the chances of sources, from whatever quarter, talking to the Press in the future. The arguments, made by the First Minister among others, are not dissimilar for Ian Paisley Jr refusing to hand over the name of a Prison Service whistleblower to the Billy Wright Inquiry.

  • dunreavynomore

    Fair play to Breen and to the Tribune for standing up to this intimidation. If journalists shop their sources to police then there will be no more sources and no more information on what is going on out of sight.
    Political policing is indeed alive and well and must be opposed. Press freedom must be upheld and that includes protection of sources.Funny how the PSNI didn’t bother going to the Easter commemoration where a masked IRA man spoke the words Breen had said his organisation had given her but are threatening to raid the home of a journalist where she lives with her little girl, assuming that’s who the child in the Tribune’s picture is.Probably easier and safer to raid a mothers house than an IRA parade.

  • TCR

    Hmmm, what would little Ian Paisley Jr do in a situation like this?… hmmmm

  • joeCanuck

    I support Breen’s stance too. Unfortunately she may have to go to jail if the PSNI carry through on their threat. She’ll join a lot of other journalists who protected their sources throughout the ages.

  • TCR

    Dissident republicans will be praying that the RUC/PSNI fall into this trap. If they truly want to further alienate the nationalist community then this is surely the way to go.

  • John

    I support Breen’s stance too, there has been two cases within the last six months where a small number of journalists have betrayed their sources and handed over material to government bodies in N. Ireland, without fighting the request or a court order. At least Breen has the guts to fight, lets hope that other journalists take note and do the same.

  • susan

    I am incensed by this.

    It was shrewd of the police to avoid the Easter commemorations altogether. A heavy handed or even a mortal clash between police and young supporters at a republican wreath-laying ceremony would have been a godsend to efforts to revive an armed campaign.

    This, on the other hand, is dumb as rocks.

    What is the gulf between Suzanne Breen’s annual earnings and the yearly combined budget of the intelligence and security services? Really. I would like to know.

    The police have had years to solve Donaldson’s murder. Breen’s cultivation of her sources and published pieces provided both new information and insight into RIRA and Donaldson’s murder (or how RIRA wishes us to think of Donaldson’s murder, at the very, very least), the three slayings in March, and even named RIRA’s wish list of immediate future targets in a revived campaign.

    And now the police response is to swiftly seek to shut her down as a source of future information (through her published pieces) not only to the public but to them?

    It serves neither the public, the victims, the families of the victims, nor democracy to throw a member of the press in a gulag for effectively doing her job. Who is served by assuring that in future armed paramilitaries will take care only to communicate through the barrel of sniper’s rifle and the occasional official, pseudo-militaristic communiqué?

    The PSNI could also be putting Breen’s life into further danger if her sources are convinced that her possible cooperation with the authorities is a threat to them.

    I hope that upon further reflection someone in a decision-making capacity will decide that publically deputising members of the press through threat of imprisonment is not a route to securing useful information, but rather a surefire way to shut it off.

  • joeCanuck

    That is a very eloquent and persuasive case for the “Authorities” to lay off.

  • Declan

    Makes me laugh that the PSNI are making out they do not know her sources.Obviously MI5 and 14th DET would be monitoring people like reporters who deal with the dissidents by recording all their calls and videoing them.Even more ironic is it is easier to find a dissident who is a tout rather than one who is not 🙂

  • paul kielty

    And what if she has just invented the whole ‘sources’ notion to further her own career? That if fact, she knows absolutely no-one within dissident groups, and just pretends she does do try and give herself a veneer of respectibility. I myself have many contacts worldwide, and have been assured by my reliable ‘source’ that indeed it was the CIA behind the grassey knoll that day in Dallas ’63!
    Therein lies the point. Anybody can invent a story based on ‘sources’, with absolutely no proof needed. A tactic that many political journalists, playing to a political agenda, have employed over the last decades. Its a win-win situation for Ms breen, refuse to name her sources(who may well not exist), or serve a couple of weeks in jail defending journalistic integrity!!
    Just a thought!

  • alan56


    A bit cynical but good point.
    However we must defend journalists rights to ‘liase’ with all kinds of people. That is central to a free society, even if sometimes we have suspicions that journos get too close to sources on some occasions.

  • Mark McGregor

    Paul, Alan,

    A nonsense piece of crap easily disproved by the fact Breen and only Breen had the RIRA statement before it was delivered.

    And fair fecks to her for getting it nad the rest of the material she has managed to put in the public domain that RUC censors and provisionial slabbers would prefer to see buried.

  • dunreavynomore

    “And what if she has just invented the whole ‘sources’ notion to further her own career? That if fact, she knows absolutely no-one within dissident groups, and just pretends she does do try and give herself a veneer of respectibility”

    Paul, her story was backed up by the masked man in Derry so it seems clear that she had spoken to the RIRA and that the ‘invention’ is all your own.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s not the first time that the PSNI have attempted to destroy a journalist, and it’s not at all right that they are taking this approach.

  • alan56


    Don’t shoot the messanger. I supported Susanne but just mentioned that there are some journos who get too close to their sources. We have to keep this in our minds if we are to honestly comment on these stories

  • Mick Fealty


    ‘Just mentioning’ is something that happens nearly every time that Suzanne’s name strays into a thread. It’s a tedious (and predictable) attempt to break the fundamental rule of Slugger: ‘play the ball and not the man’.

    For the record, no one should be above criticism in Northern Ireland, not journalists, politicians or bloggers. But the game playing here is as obvious as it is egregious (I refer mostly to three removed contributions on this thread).


    If that was the case, then a fair few stories would never see the light of day, ever! There is enough of a code of Omerta bunging up our politics without introducing even tighter measures against dissenting voices.

    Sometimes ‘sources’ are profoundly misleading. Others may be truthful as far as they go, but politically mischievous: we saw Sinn Fein take the sharp end of that cming to the end of their negotiations up to the restart of Stormont.

    Certainly if you *know* of such a bent, then tell the rest of us. But if you aim is to try to discredit a journalist who is reporting in an area that’s clearly being systematically avoided by other, more helpful, witnesses, then you are aiding the repressive end of the state’s machinery in order to ‘shut up’ inconvenient testimony.

    It’s one important reason why we have the ‘no ad hominem’ rule in the first place. I hope that’s clear?

  • nic

    Well, as I tried to, I believe, legitimately point out: the sources named have proclaimed responsibility for several murders and claim to be conspiring to commit more. Let’s ask the victims families how they feel about Ms. Breen or any other journalist’s uncritical channelling of their statements and de facto refusal to help them get justice.
    Further, let’s consider “intimidation” and “strong arming”: In Ms Breen’s apologia in the Tribune, she claims that co-operating with the police will endanger her life. The Real IRA will kill her.
    It seems to me, that the Real IRA are the one’s doing the intimidating. It seems they can order a senior editor of a major paper around to take a statement and print it verbatim at will. The brave citizen thing to do would be to testify, surely?

  • Nic

    Excuse me: sources “named” s/be sources “referred to”. mea culpa

  • picador


    The correct thing would be to report what was said in an objective manner and to keep the identity of the source confidential.

    It seems to me that she has done a deal with the devil – though who that devil might be is another matter.