Latest news on the Breen case…

Slugger understands the PSNI are not dropping their action. They will seek an order under the Terrorism Act from Judge Tom Burgess tomorrow at Belfast Laganside court complex at 1.45pm demanding that all material relating to Sunday Tribune stories on the Real IRA – ie notes, computers, phones etc – is handed over to them within three days. The Sunday Tribune and Breen are still not complying with the PSNI request. The Tribune will be represented by solicitor Joe Rice.

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    Stand your ground Suzanne even if it means prison. I mean it’s 5 Stars in there anyway with TV’s, videos, menus and all the home comforts so it’s hardly rock breaking. Joking aside the PSNI should wise up and stop harassing this journalist and paper. It’s a dangerous precedent and what would she have to say that the cops don’t probably know already? This is Orwell’s 1984 and is quite shameful. The NUJ in Britain and Ireland should take to the streets if she is arrested.

  • joeCanuck

    Excuse my bad language in advance. This is fucking disgusting.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Gald to hear it. I’m not a fan of Breen anyway, but she and other journalists have no right keeping information against the police when its important.

    Off with her head!

  • keith

    The last actual conviction of a journalist for not revealing sources was in the 30s from what I know. Exactly what do the police hope to achieve?? I hardly think they’ll find a map with “‘ra here” marked on it. If they wanted the notes why didn’t they just raid her house? Or could they not even get a warrant to do that?

    This is going to be nothing but bad publicity for the PSNI.

    Do 4 or 5 gobshites running around wearing balaclavas really justify the erosion of our press freedom?

    They should be going after David Gordon and all his cheeky FOIs. He’s causing more nuisance to the government than Ms Breen ever has.

    I hope she stands her ground. But by various accounts, it’s a horrible ordeal to go through.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    This is one of those rare accasions when journalists can feel justifiably self-righteous and journalism can seem like a principled profession and there is much lofty talk of truth and integrity as they get to do battle in a worthy cause with the instutions of the state – you can see the cops point of view but on this one I think it is time to ascend to the high moral ground and give Suzy our support.

  • latcheeco

    Pure genius! Alienate your own press.

  • pete whitcroft

    The police continue to waste our money and any credibility they have on witch hunts.Some of these guys are eeejits who don’t know when to fold, because it is other peoples money they are wasting.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]because it is other peoples money they are wasting.2[/i]

    Maybe Breen should think about that. what happens if someone gets murdered because she held back information?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ulsters my homeland,

    What if someone gets murdered because the PSNI failed to act on any of the information inside her article, and also failed to monitor the RIRA commemoration at Easter ?

    This is typical of what goes on in this country. Instead of doing any real police work, the PSNI are going after the soft targets.

  • picador

    For once principle is on her side. She can count herself lucky that she doesn’t live in Spain because she be either out of a job or in prison by now.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Comrade Stalin,

    [i]”What if someone gets murdered because the PSNI failed to act on any of the information inside her article, and also failed to monitor the RIRA commemoration at Easter ? “[/i]

    at least it would be on the PSNI’s conscience. If a journalist is refusing to cooperate with the worlds most respected police service, how does that look?

  • Mick Fealty


    If you want, you can come back, under licence. But only if you use your real identity.

    Even though Orwell used a false name, we all knew he was Eric Blair.

    Hiding behind the skirts of anonymity to lob sh!t bombs at someone who has no problem writing under her own name (and taking the legit brickbats) is the coward’s way out…

    If you are determined to shoot the messenger, do it on your own blog

  • dunreavynomore

    I haven’t heard any politician comment on this issue so maybe I have just missed them as it’s hard to believe that people so keen on everybodys rights and freedom such as Gerry Kelly or Gerry Adams have nothing to say about this. The SDLP are crying about justice powers but nothing to say either and my assumption is that the Unionist mindset is covered by UMH above with ‘off with her head.’

  • Gabriel

    The PSNI get more and more like the keystone cops every day.Certain elements of the security forces would have monitored her internet and phone for years anyway and tracked her mobile phone to every location for years.There seems to be an ulterior motive for all this and breen seems to have been used for a hidden agenda.

  • Neil

    worlds most respected police service

    Why most respected UMH? Is it because of the astronomical performance in clearance rates? A whopping 22% of crimes solved, why that means if 5 people go out to commit crime, only four of the five will get away with it, instead of five from five. Or is it most respected because of the fact that the makeup of the PSNI overwhelmingly Protestant? Why most respected UMH?

  • Gabriel

    Obviously breen was never popular with sinn fein especially marty after some of the stories in the past.Marty is alleged to have a great hatred of what he now calls ‘dissident journalists’ and i wonder if he has got the PSNI to do as much damage as they can to her credibility and to push for convictions on the donaldson murder.Breen digs a lot deeper than many dare especially with her ‘marty tout’ stories in the past and i feel certain people in stormont are starting to twitch with nervousness.

  • Dave

    “It would be deeply ironic if SF now added to the calls for the PSNI to get off her back.”

    It would be cynical rather than ironic since it is Wee Marty who called for the defenders of Her Majesty’s realm to climb up on her back. Marty doesn’t want the press to give ‘the oxygen of publicity’ to those who, unlike Wee Marty, would hold that the Irish nation in Northern Ireland have a right to national self-determination rather than a fickle aspiration that is legitimately subject to the discretion of another nation. “We still have dissident journalists” said Wee Marty, who are “giving succour to these people”.

    Marty, like the British state since partition, would contend that the Unionist Veto (grandiosely renamed as the Principle of Consent to confuse the Shinner muppets) is legitimate, with the any objection to that abject surrender of national rights being pointless violence by those who refuse to surrender such rights. That conflates opposition to the Unionist Veto with violent opposition to the Unionist Veto.

    It is also a myth to argue that the right to national self-determination had to be renounced in order for the former northern nationalists to be elected to public office since they were elected to public office before they renounced it. The reason they renounced it was because that was the price that the unionist political parties demanded in order to share power with a sectarian murder gang. It was laid out in the Downing Street Declaration, and determined by the British government, not by the Shinner muppets who have simply adopted British state policy and passed it off as nationalist policy.

    It is also the policy of the British state that northern ‘republicanism’ be redefined as support for British rule. That is why it is very important to Wee Marty that the Shinners are seen as the spokesmen for that brand of former anti-state ‘republicanism’ and that the torch doesn’t slip from British-controlled hands to those who are not puppets of the British state.

  • Mick Fealty



    Are you some kind of idiot? You’ve been told several times to stick to the ball, and not the man.

    Now, keep it up, and I (never mind anyone else) will be after you. Names, places, and any other pertinent detail will be turned over directly to whomsoever seeks to take legal action against you.

    To quote ubiquitous Mulley: “Invisible people have invisible rights”!

  • susan

    At least, when push came to shove Picador stated explicitly that Breen had a right to protect her sources and shouldn’t be jailed for it.

    Many in the mainstream media and blogosphere have fallen short of making that simple statement of support, though many have, from Liam Clarke, Brian Rowan and Brian Walker to Mackers.

    I stated my support for Breen’s stance early in Belfast Gonzo’s first thread on the topic, as did several others. Like most occasional commenters we haven’t time to follow from thread to thread, nor do we harbour delusions the world gives a bucket of warm spit what individual posters have to say on any topic anyway.


    No one can claim to hold republican, or democratic, or Enlightenment values without supporting the liberty of the press. A free press isn’t a luxury or frill of democracy, it’s the oxygen it needs to survive. And a journalist who cannot protect his or her sources cannot be a journalist. It is that simple. If you are silent about Breen’s treatment by the PSNI, you may have a fetish for what particular flag is flying over God’s little acre, but you are hardly a democrat or a republican.

    In the May 5th Telegraph Brian Rowan wrote about his experiences after the police pressured him for more information about a contact he’d had regarding the murder of postman Danny McColgan. Rowan agonised, but felt his duty to his profession and his family prohibited him from revealing more than he’d already freely shared. Many years later, he learned his source was a CHIS, a Covert Human Intelligence Source.

    Even if you honestly believe that the prosecution of Breen is not a charade but a straightforward search for facts in a murder investigation — are you willing to abandon a free press in the name of it? Sure, a few may have gotten swoony reading the RIRA spokesman’s account of Donaldson lying on the floor to demoralised even to plead for his own life, but thousands more were repulsed. She brought new information to the public, and to the police, through her published pieces.

    You’d almost think someone out there didn’t want the crime to be solved, working hard as they are to shut down and silence one of the few sources of new information they have. Reading Breen’s pieces I wouldn’t have thought those to be the last scoops of her career. Were I investigating the Donaldson murder or RIRA’s next moves, I would have watched Breen carefully, not shut her down.

    Let Breen do her job. Critiques of Breen’s style and substance are beside the point. This is not about a personality, but about defending a simple principle.

    Most people understand far more about the cloak and dagger compromises of the process keeping the peace than the, cough, “leading negotiators” seem to realise Not only can people handle the truth, they are handling the truth and have been handling it for years. And yet the vast majority support the peace process, not out of reverence for politicians or the process but out of of abhorrence and repulsion at the thought of a return to endless road blocks and security checks and more mother’s sons and daughters being scraped off the streets into body bags once again.

  • dunreavynomore

    Well said, Susan, we need a free press as any other kind is norhing more than an arm of state control.



  • granni trixie

    Whilst supporting this particular Breen case, I do not believe absolutely that journos are always to be outside the law in protecting sources.

    Infact,Journalists are sounding sanctimonious on this one.Which does not ender me.

  • dunreavynomore

    Srill no word from the politicians on this one. Wonder why neither Bairbre or Alban think press freedom is important enough to warrant a statement or two?

  • picador

    Censored! 🙁

  • Anonymous Ordinary Joe

    Hiding behind the skirts of anonymity to lob sh!t bombs at someone who has no problem writing under her own name (and taking the legit brickbats) is the coward’s way out…

    That’s a weak argument. They do write under their own names because that is the profession they chose and for which they are paid, and they take the prestige and awards which flow from that.

    Contributors here, in the main, are ordinary Joes and Josephines, who have other jobs, and in those jobs the expression of opinion might just lose them their employment.

    That’s why forums and blogs are popular: people who are spitting mad about what some politicians say, or paramilitaries do, or journalists write have this arena to let off steam and express their opinion.

    They don’t get paid for writing this opinion, or formulating their arguments, or venting their spleens, or servicing an agenda, so they are entitled to their anonymity – and you should be more gracious in allowing it.

    They are your core audience, and what make the blogosphere what it is.

    One further point which seems to have escaped you:

    Journalists don’t sue for libel.

    Not proper ones.

    So let’s hear no more about the ‘noble hack’ being celebrated for putting their name to what they write while the anonymous blogger being denigrated for being cowardly.

    The journalist chose their career, got paid for it, revelled in their byline and make a career out of it.

    The rest of us didn’t.

  • susan

    Picador, I think you need a new emoticon for “censored.” Perhaps :ox.

    No, better :-x. :ox could be interpreted as “posting while wearing a dicky-bow.”

    ANYWAY, the NUJ released the following press release today:

    Sunday Tribune reporter is backed in press freedom case
    The National Union of Journalists’ National Executive Council has today passed a strong statement in support a journalist facing attempts by the police to seize her source material.
    At Belfast Crown Court today, Suzanne Breen, the Northern Ireland Editor of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune, challenged an attempt by the police to obtain a wide-ranging high court order that would require her to hand over source material relating to the Real IRA.
    The NUJ has a long-standing policy of supporting its members when defending their rights to maintain the confidentiality of source material. If the police and security services are able to access confidential journalistic material, the future of investigative journalism would be put at risk.
    NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley explained: “If the police begin to use journalists as a tool of intelligence gathering, sources won’t have confidence that they can speak openly to the press. That means stories will go uncovered and journalists will be put in physical danger.”
    The following motion was adopted by the union’s NEC today:
    “This NEC applauds the stand taken by Suzanne Breen in resisting legal attempts to reveal journalistic sources. NEC notes support from the Sunday Tribune and fully expects management to continue their fight to defend both her and press freedom.
    “NEC reaffirms its belief that journalists and journalism should not be used as extensions of the state.”
    The NEC pledged to give “all practicable support” to Suzanne in her case.
    Séamus Dooley added: “This case is deeply worrying both because of the sweeping nature of the order being sought and way in which the case is being approached by the police. We are particularly concerned that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has sought for the entire case to be held behind closed doors and that they have made an application for a preliminary in camera hearing in the absence of Suzanne Breen’s legal team.”
    The case is expected to resume on Tuesday.
    Please send messages of support for Suzanne to

  • susan

    One of the statements of support under Suzanne Breen’s statement at the Sunday Tribune site is from a son of Michael Edwards, a 39 year old civilian Catholic shopkeeper and father of six who was murdered at home in his bed in Sptember 1993 by a loyalist death squad (the Sutton Index lists attributes the death to the UFF).

    #12 Michael Edwards commented, on May 6, 2009 at 1:06 a.m.:
    The important work that journalists like Suzanne does to get information out to the public domain should not be compromised by the actions of the police. Without the freedom to report, information which would not be available to the public would never be released. I support Suzanne’s actions. She refers in her article to the murder of my father; even though she may know the names of the individuals involved I believe it is right that she does not reveal them, as this may put her life in danger. I commend the bravery that Suzanne being an Irish journalist would interview the loyalists at a time when loyalists made no distinction between killing catholic men or woman. It’s dangerous enough reporting in the North without the unnecessary actions of the police.

  • Gabriel

    This is now becoming a farce and gives even more bad publicity and ridicule to the keystone cops aka PSNI.They really are in such a sad state if they are trying to say they need to pursue a journalist for their intelligence.The RIRA are riddled from top to bottom with touts as they have been since their formation so there is no need to make such a scene over a journalist.

  • dunreavynomore

    Still no word of a statement on the issue from either S.F or the SDLP. That doesn’t bode well for what we could expect from them if either party got their hands on policing and justice powers, minimal as those powers might be.
    I do find it surprising that neither party has issued a word on this.

  • Big Maggie

    In the unlikely event that Suzanne Breen is tried and found guilty, that ruling is going to create a precedent that will have enormous repercussions. Investigative journalism will take such a body blow that we can say goodbye to it except in a toothless form.

    If the baddies don’t talk to journalists any more, there’ll be no one but the PSNI to rely on for our information. Not a prospect that fills me with confidence.