Given the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggot’s current concern about certain communities, and confidence, here’s a Londonderry Sentinel report that may be of relevance. It relates to an incident in the city in August 2010 which, at the time, was blamed on dissenting republicans. From the Sentinel report
At the time locals said that around 20 masked men appeared in the Campion Court area having disembarked from a white van. They began to remove materials intended for use at a bonfire before being challenged by local youths.
The vehicle that ferried the masked men was later abandoned causing a security alert in the district during which some homes were evacuated.
One 15-year-old girl challenged by the masked assailants said at the time that she was left terrified by the incident.
“One of the men grabbed me by the throat and had a gun in his hand. I couldn’t breath. It was really scary,” she said.
It was then claimed that as police arrived into the area the men removed their masks to blend in with local people, causing them to be identified as members of the mainstream republican movement. This view was backed by dissident republican groupings.
The interesting point is what happened when the Sentinel started asking questions.
The Londonderry Sentinel subsequently launched a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the PSNI about Provisional IRA activity in the city. The request centred on all reports, emails and memos sent to or sent by the PSNI or within the PSNI which make mention of the Provisional IRA being involved in criminal activity of any sort within G District from July 1, 2010 to July 28, 2011.
After an initial denial to grant the requested information, the Sentinel requested an internal review, citing that disclosing the information was in the public interest. But, the PSNI review did not find in the newspaper’s favour citing amongst other sections of the FoI Act that matters of national security outweigh the public interest.
And on national security, as Matt Baggot says
“To be frank, I need the expertise and analytical capability of the security services,” [Matt Baggot] said.
“MI5’s job here is simply to keep people safe – that’s what they do alongside the PSNI.
“We would not be having the success we’ve had if not for working closely with the security services as well as colleagues in An Garda Siochana.”