Derry Disorder, Irish Republican Terrorism, Lyra McKee murder: The UK’s Forgotten Terrorist Activity?

Derry riots April 2019Lyra McKee

In the evening of Thursday 18th April 2019 disorder broke out in the Creggan area of Derry. While the PSNI were carrying our searches for weapons and explosives trouble broke out with vehicles being set alight and petrol bombs thrown at PSNI vehicles and officers. During this disorder a New IRA gunman came around a corner and fired shots indiscriminately towards the PSNI, tragically killing the journalist Lyra McKee who was reporting in the incident.

Rasharkin pipe bomb

This tragic event follows closely behind two separate pipe bomb attacks on the 17th April 2019. One was in in Armagh where two devices exploded, the second in the small village of Rasharkin, Antrim where a pipe bomb was thrown into the window of a home in the village with a second left on the home’s windowsill. Also on the 17th April a 49 year old male was arrested in Strabane, Tyrone by the PSNI for terrorism related offences linked to the INLA and suspicion of blackmail and being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs.

IRA unfinished revolution derry

The killing of Lyra McKee is being reported as a top news story by the British media, but regarding the other incidents the British media were relatively silent. This raises the question if terrorist activity, in particular activity by dissident republicans in the six northern counties of Ireland that is part of the UK has become the forgotten UK terrorist activity in the island of Britain? Understandably the main terrorist threat facing the whole of the UK emanates from Islamist inspired activity, followed by activity by the extreme far-right (mainly in Britain). It is predominantly Islamist inspired activity that resulted in the UK terrorist threat level being at severe (an attack is highly likely) from the international terrorist threat. In the North of Ireland the terrorist threat level is also severe and that includes from ‘Northern Ireland related terrorism’, where for Britain this particular threat is moderate (an attack is possible but not likely). How long will it be before the threat to the whole of the UK the threat of North of Ireland terrorism is severe?

london letter bombs

In March 2019 letter bombs were received in various London locations, where it is suspected a person linked to or on behalf of the New IRA were responsible. As I have stated in my previous blog posts covering the terrorist activity in the North of Ireland, dissident Irish republican groups be it the New IRA, the INLA or Continuity IRA are desirous of carrying out attacks in Britain. While these groups’ logistical capability to do so my be limited at the moment, especially in relation to sympathisers providing logistical support in Britain, there are members of dissident republican groups who from the 1968-1998 Troubles have vast experience in bomb making and firearms use, as well as operating in Britain. Since reporting in my blog posts on the rise of dissident Irish republican group activity over the last few years, I predicted there would be a rise in republican based terrorism and violence in the North and there is an increasing possibility these activities will cross the Irish Sea to Britain.

saoradh

The reason behind the increase in dissident republican activity includes the exploitation of the inactivity in the Assembly in Stormont that is currently suspended due to the impasse between the DUP and Sinn Fein. Another reason is in relation to Brexit where republican groups and their political wings like the New IRA’s Saoradh are exploiting the potential problems a hard border between the North and the Irish Republic would pose. As I have stated in previous blog posts on this subject, Saoradh and the New IRA in particular are using this to fuel discontent among the Catholic, nationalist community with calls for the 32 counties to be reunited and come under the governance of the Dail in Dublin. In turn, there is no way would loyalist groups like the UDA, UVF and UFF and political parties like the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and the DUP would ever contemplate that happening. One result would be an increase in loyalist violence.

ira_with_flags2ira creggan

At the time of writing it is Easter weekend and there will be a number of parades and commemorations regarding the 1916 Easter Rising. Already in certain locations in the North parades have been planned without the permission of the PSNI. This is a legal requirement and in virtually most cases those submitting their parade plans will be granted authority by the PSNI to do so. Groups like Saoradh have not carried out this legal requirement and I suspect this is to fuel further discontent and violence as the PSNI will attempt to prevent illegal parades taking place. Marching is a sensitive issue in the North of Ireland, which we have seen during the marching season in July.

While quite rightly Northern Irish politicians have condemned the killing of Lyra McKee and the violence in Derry last night, I would like to see the DUP and Sinn Fein do more that pass commentary and take positive action. This includes putting aside their differences and rather than be self-serving, they work with the other political parties for the benefit of all in the North. Reading the DUP and Sinn Fein response to the murder of Lyra McKee, I feel it is easy to give platitudes, but I would rather like to see positive action coming from the two largest parties in the North to work together with the other parties to diffuse the tensions and discontent that exists in certain areas.

Steve sdlp pic

On the 2nd May local elections are being held in the North and now is the time of the North of Ireland electorate to send a positive message to the DUP and Sinn Fein and shun their traditional political allegiances and cast their vote for the SDLP, Alliance and UUP parties. It will not stop the violence overnight, but it would be a start by the people to tell the DUP and Sinn Fein that they are fed up with inactivity and want political action. Another action the people can take is holding demonstrations like they did in Omagh when the PSNI officer Ronan Kerr was murdered and have a ‘Not in My Name’ protest.

My terrorism book cover

You can read issues related to this post in my book ‘Terrorism: Law & Policy’ published by Routledge

Update: Just as I published this post Saoradh issued a statement justifying the actions of the New IRA gunman where the statement contains the rhetoric of PIRA/Sinn Fein during the Troubles. There can be no justification for this senseless murder.

Update 20th April 2019 – there will be ‘not in our name’ demosntratiosn in Strabane and Derry today around 12 noon. Let’s hope politicians take note of the strength of feeling over the murder of Lyra McKee and the disorder in the Creggan and start working together.

 

Christchurch Terrorist Attack

Christchurch attack1Christchurch attack

All forms of violence are tragic and awful. The threat of extreme far-right and far-right influenced terrorism revealed the devastation it causes was witnessed in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday 15th March 2019 where, to date 49 people have been killed in an attack by a gunman influenced by the extreme far-right. The man’s target was Muslims worshipping at two Christchurch mosques where he indiscriminately shot and killed men, women and children.

METROGRAB:Suspected  Finsbury Park attacker is detained by police and members of the public
Photo credit: Nawaf Atiq/ Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/nawaf.atiq

While all terrorist attacks come as a shock when they happen, this is not the first time we have witnessed the use of small arms or the targeting of those attending a place of worship. Bissonnette, who was influenced by far-right ideology, was convicted in early 2019 for the murder of six Muslims he shot while attending a mosque in Quebec, Canada in 2017. Darren Osbourne was convicted of murder and attempt murder after killing a Muslim and seriously injuring other Muslims attending Finsbury Park Mosque, London after driving a van into worshippers leaving the mosque in June 2017. White supremacist, Dylann Roof, was convicted of murdering nine black worshippers at a church in Carolina, US, when he entered the church and shot them.

Jayda Fransen court case
Deputy leader of the far-right group, Jayda Fransen (centre) and its leader Paul Golding (left), leave Belfast Magistrates’ Court, after she was released on bail after appearing at the court charged over comments about Islam made in a social media posting. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday December 15, 2017. Fransen, 31, has been charged with threatening behaviour over remarks made earlier this week beside a peace wall dividing Catholics from Protestants in the city. See PA story ULSTER Hate. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

I have posted numerous blogs on my website regarding the rise of extreme far-right and far-right inspired violence over the last 18 months. I see two distinct groups here with the extreme far-right, who espouse the national socialist ideology and are neo-Nazis, and the far-right who are generally anti-Islam, anti-immigration and anti-EU (European groups). The violence has ranged from hate crime to, as seen in the UK in June 2016, the killing of a politician, the MP Jo Cox by Thomas Mair who was inspired by neo-Nazi ideology. My work in this area has shown how the rise in populist right wing politics has resulted in the extreme far-right and far-right feeling more comfortable in espousing their message and cause. Also, while one tends to think of the right being nationalist, a degree of internationalisation has occurred where, mainly through current forms of electronic communication, from social media to website support for and encouragement of extreme far-right and far-right activity between similar thinking citizens in various states.. As I have said on many occasions, do not underestimate the threat of the extreme far-right and the far-right.

National Action 2Atomwaffen

My studies revealed a high degree of variance in hate crime and terrorist activity related to the right. The UK is currently the only western state to proscribe extreme far-right groups as terrorist organisations (National Action in December 2016, Scottish Dawn and NS131 in September 2017) and has a statutory definition of hate crime related to race, religion, nationality and sexuality. Canada has a similar statutory provision as the UK regarding hate crime, but the Australian legislation is weak and US is virtually non-existent, with the definition of hate crime being non-statutory and provided by the FBI. One reason for this is politicians do not want to be seen to impinge on freedom of expression. This may also explain with no other state has followed the UK in proscribing certain groups as terrorist organisations. As a result, extreme far-right and far-right groups are open in publicising their cause via various media. For example in the US neo-Nazi groups, although monitored by the likes of the FBI, are actively open. One US group, Atomwaffen, their social media and website contains videos of their members burning the US flag and constitution, training with automatic assault rifles and calling for a race war. Due their glorification and promotion of violence to their cause if they were based in the UK they would be proscribed as a terrorist group.

Maybe, just maybe, this tragic and truly awful attack in Christchurch will have states tightening or introducing hate crime legislation and following the UK by proscribing extreme far-right groups as terrorist organisation to deal with the internationalisation of the right, just as they have rightly done so with Islamist groups.

My terrorism book cover

Your can read more on this area in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’, published by Routledge in 201

London Letter Bombs: Are we seeing dissident Irish Republican attacks return to Britain?

london letter bombs

On Tuesday 5th March 2019 three packages containing explosives were found at Heathrow Airport, City of London Airport and Waterloo Rail Station. The package that was delivered to Heathrow was opened and caught fire, while the other two were unopened and seized by the police. These IED’s were small and placed in a Jiffy bag and posted in a white A4 envelope. To date no one has claimed responsibility for this action.
At the time of writing the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit, SO15, were being assisted by the Irish police, An Garda Siochana in the investigation. This is not confirmation dissident republican groups like the New IRA (NIRA) were responsible, but there is a possibility of a connection. As all investigators should do, SO15 are keeping an open mind as to who is responsible for sending the letters. It could be from any extremist group or individuals influenced by an extremist group including Islamists or the far-right, to an individual with no connection whatsoever who simply has a grudge against the recipients.

IRA unfinished revolution derrycar bomb derry jan 2019

 

Since the delivery of the letters developments are increasingly leaning to NIRA as being responsible. Over the last few years NIRA (and its predecessor Real IRA) have been the most active group carrying out violent attacks in the North of Ireland. Their violent activity has increased over the last few years as seen with the car bomb outside Bishop Street courthouse in January 2019 and the shootings in 2018 and 2019. Gardaí intelligence has indicated that for several months NIRA is preparing to ‘ramp up’ its activities in 2019.

BBC-Breakfast-Logobbc radio 5

Supported by NIRA’s political wing, Saoradh, they have used the Irish border issue in the Brexit negotiations to recruit disillusioned members of the nationalist community in the North to their cause. Emphasising how a hard border demonstrates a degree of contempt by the UK government in Westminster towards the Irish, NIRA recently warned ‘there will be blood’ if a hard border returns between the North and the Republic. The British mainstream media has hardly reported the recent violence in the North by both dissident republicans and loyalists. As seen in the Troubles, a campaign of violence carried out in Britain does bring closer attention to dissident republican’s cause by both national and international mainstream media. I was part of that having given interviews providing commentary over the letter bombs to BBC Breakfast (television) and BBC Radio 5 Live and talkRADIO discussing the potential Irish connection to this incident.

These particular letter explosives were designed to start a small fire, not to cause serious injury, but they have been enough for SO15 to be concerned about the incident. It appears the aim of these letters was to frighten and warn people that they are not safe. It has achieved that, especially with the mainstream media reporting the incident. As I said in my media interviews it has got us talking about it and that is what the sender of the letters wants. This is part of the terror effect, to frighten and warn people.

ira_with_flags2loyalists

As stated, currently it is not known who is responsible and there is the possibility this action was carried out by a person with strong opinions about the recipients of the letters, even as to how Brexit negotiations are panning out who have no connections with terrorist groups. However, reports are increasingly pointing towards NIRA and if this is the case it will emphasise how the whole of the UK is facing a terrorist threat on three fronts, Islamists (that is likely to be enhanced with Islamic State fighters returning to the UK from Syria), the extreme far-right (neo-Nazi’s) and from dissident Irish republican groups. It is of paramount importance the UK, Irish and EU Brexit negotiators find a solution regarding the Irish border issue to maintain the free flow of all Irish citizens between the North and the Republic, thereby removing a political issue that is fuelling dissident Irish republican groups’ cause.

My terrorism book cover

You can read in more detail about terrorism in the North of Ireland in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’ published by Routledge

Brexit and the North of Ireland: Are we returning to the Troubles?

IRA Derry

During the UK’s EU referendum campaign how Brexit would impact on the North of Ireland, especially in relation to the Irish border, was an issue not seriously considered in Britain. EU officials may have considered it and if they did they kept their powder dry to use the implications this issue would have at a later stage in Brexit negotiations. As we have seen in the last few months the Irish border issue has become one of the most serious sticking points in progressing the UK’s leaving the EU, especially with EU officials during Brexit negotiations over the last eight months or so. There is no doubt EU officials have used the Irish border issue as a divisive bargaining chip. It could be argued that the border issue was not even thought of as an agenda item in 2016 and it questions why more recently it only did so. This is strange as the Gibraltar question did become part of the early Brexit negotiations.

theresa-mayEU Flag & BrexitLeo-Varadkar-Brexit

While negotiations initially focused on the impact the UK leaving the EU would have on the freedom of movement of goods, services and people, immigration, border controls with continental Europe and issues related to the influence EU law and Court of Justice of the European Union decisions would have on the UK post-Brexit, Ireland seemed not to enter into the equation in the early stages. This is disconcerting as it appears  it was forgotten that the Irish Republic is the only one of 28 Member States with a land border with the UK. I have raised this issue in my previous blog posts as it appears it is only now are British MP’s, mainly the English politicians, waking up to the fact how Brexit can be an instrument to be used by dissident Irish republicans, mainly in the North to destabilise the peace brought about the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998. At the time of writing the UK Prime Minister is in Ireland discussing the issue trying to find a resolution. As such, recent dissident republican action has put dissident loyalist groups on alert to prepare for taking action against a united Ireland.

ira_with_flags2

Regarding dissident republican groups, prior to Brexit there has been a steady growth of violent activity that can be traced from the attack on British Army soldiers outside Massereene Barracks in 2009, statement bombings such those outside the MI5 offices in Belfast, car bomb outside Derry’s Strand Road police station in 2010, even the plan to mortar bomb that police station in 2013 and killing of PSNI and prison officers (examples include the killing of Ronan Kerr in 2011 And David Black in 2012). In certain areas of the North support for former dissident republican group the Real IRA (RIRA) never disappeared. For example in Derry’s Creggan area when the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM) held Easter Rising commemorations at Creggan Cemetery RIRA members not only attended in paramilitary uniforms, but gave addresses to the attendees. The ten year period of 2009 to 2019 has seen changes in dissident republican movements and groups. In 2012 the New IRA was formed between RIRA, Republican Action Against Drugs and disaffected members of the Provisional IRA. The INLA and Continuity IRA did not join this group and continue to exist in their own right as separate terrorist groups. More recently the far-left political party, Saoradh was formed 2016 and is an amalgamation of groups such as the 32CSM and Republican Network Unity.
car bomb derry jan 2019

As I have reported in my more recent blog posts, Saoradh and the New IRA (and arguably the INLA and CIRA) have taken advantage of Brexit and the Irish border issue to deliberately misinform and use for propaganda purposes in order to incite further unrest and violence. Using the border issue saying that a hard border is evidence of British imperialism on the Irish, they have used the issue to recruit members of the nationalist community to their cause. As such, we have witnessed an increase in dissident republican activity, with the latest being the car bomb outside Derry’s Bishop Street courthouse in January 2019 and the two ‘punishment’ shootings in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry on the 2nd February 2019. Also on the 2nd February an arms cache that included a suspected mortar bomb tube was found by the Gardaí in County Louth close to the border with County Armagh in the North. This in addition to the guns found buried in a cemetery in Derry in January 2019.

uvf

There is no doubting dissident republicans are going to use Brexit as a vehicle to promote unification of all 32 Irish counties under governance from the Dail in Dublin. As such this has put dissident loyalist groups on alert. As one of their Belfast murals says, ‘Prepared for Peace, Ready for War’. While murals are perceived as tourist attractions, recent murals like this on both republican and loyalist sides have a ring of authenticity related to the current situation. This is seen with the number of loyalist shootings and killings in the last 12 months, the latest being Ian Ogle, a spokesman for the loyalist community on the 27th January 2019. These actions on both sides suggests they are preparing for conflict and a return to the Troubles.

Trimble & Hume

One catalyst for this is the very real prospect of a poll being held on Irish unity. If this occurs, never mind a return to the Troubles, its turning the clock back to 1919 and there is no way loyalists want a united Ireland. Even though we have seen an increase in violence, we may still be left of bang regarding the North of Ireland, but if this situation is ignored by British based MP’s, EU officials and, as it appears, not recognised by DUP politicians who are pro-Brexit, very shortly we will be right of bang with an increase in violence. If this occurs all the hard work by the likes of John Hume and David Trimble that brought about peace via the GFA will have gone.

Issues related to this blog post can be read in more detail in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’  published by Routledge

My terrorism book cover

Car Bomb Bishop Street Courthouse Derry January 2019

car bomb derry jan 2019

Just after 8pm in the evening on Saturday 19th January 2019 a car bomb exploded outside Derry’s courthouse in Bishop Street. Four men have been arrested in connection to the PSNI’s investigation into the bombing. Fortunately no one was killed or injured, but it could have been different as minutes before the bomb exploded a group of young people walked down Bishop Street next to the car bomb.

car bomb derry jan 2019 1

The PSNI suspect this attack was carried out by the New IRA. Earlier that evening the car was being driven by a pizza delivery man in Quarry Street, Derry and he was hi-jacked at gunpoint by two armed men. The armed men then drove the vehicle to the courthouse and placed the bomb inside the car. Shortly after parking the car a telephone warning was given to the West Midlands Samaritans in England, who then contacted the West Midlands Police, who in turn  informed the PSNI. This has all the similar hallmarks of PIRA’s activity and behaviour during the Troubles.

john boyle

There has been widespread condemnation of the attack from all Northern Irish political parties. Derry’s mayor and SDLP councillor, John Boyle said the city was shocked and saddened and during a media interview told those responsible for carrying out the attack that such actions will not achieve anything.

ira_with_flags2UDA

One question is why are we witnessing such activity that is suspected to be carried out by dissident republican groups? In my earlier blog posts covering dissident activity in the North of Ireland I have explained how fears of a hard border between the North and the Irish Republic post Brexit is playing into the hands of dissident republican groups. (Visit my website drdavidlowe.co.uk) The messages spouted by the republican group Saoradh who use, twist and manipulate various political and economic issues to spread and fuel discontent has had a degree of success. The Bishop Street car bomb should not come as a complete surprise as recently as November 2018 a number of gun attacks were carried out in Derry that were linked to dissident republican paramilitaries. Loyalist groups have also been carrying out acts of violence and in January 2019 four men were convicted in Belfast Crown Court of murdering a man in County Antrim.

irish border

One important issue that must be negotiated with sensitivity and pragmatism is the Brexit backstop plan regarding the Irish border. At the time of writing the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, is reconsidering this issue. In order that the current UK government can secure an agreement in the House of Commons over its Brexit plans, hopefully this will not result in abandoning the backstop plan and result in a hard border, as this has the potential to destabilise the peace process introduced following the Good Friday Agreement. This is not an idle warning, this is based by my research, experience and knowledge of the North of Ireland, in order to secure the current UK government’s position it should not use the six Northern Irish counties as a sacrificial lamb to appease both DUP and English based MP’s. If they do there is a real possibility of the Troubles returning to the North of Ireland.

Issues related to this blog post can be read in more detail in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’ published by Routledge.

My terrorism book cover

Recent Irish Paramilitary Activity: Hardly Reported in Britain

Loyalist mural Derry west bankira flag

To follow on from my earlier blogs related to terrorist activity in the North of Ireland, November 2018 has seen further evidence of paramilitary activity from both republican and loyalist groups. None of this activity has been reported in the British mainstream media. Maybe because Brexit grabs the headlines where the only mention of Ireland is either the border issue or the DUP’s position on the Brexit agreement and the vulnerability of the current UK government. In relation to terrorist activity in Britain, the focus is either on Islamist or extreme far-right activity. This is understandable as the British terrorist threat level is severe, due mainly to the Islamist threat it is facing. As a result, paramilitary activity in the North of Ireland is either ignored or forgotten on the British side of the Irish Sea. In the North of Ireland the terrorist threat level is also severe, but not from Islamist activity, it is from dissident republicans and loyalists.

IRA Derry 1IRA Derry

In November 2018 there have been a number of paramilitary style shootings. On the 15th November a man was shot in the legs in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry and another man was shot in the legs and arms in the Creggan area in Derry on the 16th November. In relation to Derry, these shootings follow where another man in the Creggan area was shot three times in the leg on the 12th September 2018. On the 26th November a community worker narrowly escaped a gun attack by a masked man with a shotgun in Clooneyville Avenue, Derry, which ironically is just a short distance for the Peace Bridge that crosses the River Foyle (but this has yet to be confirmed as being linked to paramilitary activity).

ira_with_flags2IRA unfinished revolution derry

These shootings have all the hallmarks of punishment shootings as witnessed during the 1968-1998 Troubles carried out by paramilitaries as they ‘policed’ their area to eradicate drugs and crime. After the 1998 Good Friday Agreement the group Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) was formed. Consisting mainly of former members of the Provisional IRA, mainly in Counties Derry and Tyrone RAAD members regularly carried out punishment shootings and beatings on those they suspected to be drug dealers or users. RAAD later merged with other dissident republican groups to form the New IRA, where along with other forms of violence the New IRA are still carrying out this type of activity. Currently four New IRA members are on trial at Belfast Crown Court with a Diplock style hearing (that is one without a jury) for being members of a proscribed organisation (the IRA), possession of firearms and conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm, where the prosecution produced evidence from covert hearing recordings that allege the four made threats of violence targeting drug dealers in Belfast.

UDAloyalists

The violence carried out in November 2018 has not been solely by dissident republicans as on the 27th November a car dealer in Carrickfergus, County Antrim had six vehicles destroyed by fire following repeated intimidation he received from members of the East Antrim Ulster Defence Association (a loyalist proscribed terrorist organisation).

North of Ireland Map

The point raised here is terrorist related paramilitary violence in the North of Ireland has not gone away. I have covered reasons why this is so in some of my earlier blogs covering the North that I recommend that you read on my website drdavidlowe.co.uk. In summary the reasons have ranged from the potential of a hard Irish border between the North and the Republic of Ireland to not having a period of reconciliation following the Good Friday Agreement. The period of austerity has not helped either with the North’s western counties being among the hardest hit (Counties Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh).

westminsterstormont

There should not only be greater public recognition of the increasing paramilitary violence in the North, but also greater support from the UK government. One way this support could be given is from the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Karen Bradley to work harder in resolving the current DUP/Sinn Fein impasse that has resulted in the Assembly at Stormont being suspended for nearly two years now. During those two years important legislation and decisions related to health, education, housing, employment and improving infrastructure have also been suspended and consequently deteriorated. That has played right into the hands of republican and loyalist paramilitaries and their political wings like the republican Saoradh. It does not help when the current Secretary of State said she little or no knowledge of Northern Irish problems and politics. Such ambivalence, if not pure contempt towards the North of Ireland by the UK government again only plays not only into the hands of the likes of Sinn Fein but also dissident groups, especially the republicans like Saoradh and the New IRA to fuel discontent and violence. One thing that cannot be ignored is that groups like the New IRA would dearly love to carry out a successful terrorist attack in England and I hope it does not result in such an attack happening that makes the UK’s Westminster government take dissident Irish paramilitary violence seriously again, as well the social and economic conditions in the North of Ireland.

My terrorism book cover

You can read some of these issues in more detail in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’ published by Routledge in 2018

Does Extreme Far-Right Terrorism Really Pose a Threat to national Security? Evidence, Freedom of Expression and Differentiating between the Extreme Far-Right and the Far-Right

 

Thomas in Klan uniform

On the 12th November 2018 a number of individuals were convicted in the UK for terrorism offences linked to extreme far-right terrorism. Adam Thomas, Claudia Patatas and Daniel Bogunavic were convicted for being members of a proscribed organisation, namely National Acton, with Thomas also convicted for being in possession of articles useful to terrorists (Anarchist Cookbook). A British Army soldier, Lance Corporal Mikko Vehvilainen was also convicted for being a member of National Action. Thomas and Patatas named their baby boy Adolf after Adolf Hitler and Thomas was photographed wearing Ku Klux Klan clothing while cradling the child. Vehvilainen was an army trainer who tried to recruit soldiers to National Action. When the police searched his army accommodation they found swastika flags, Nazi memorabilia, CD’s of Third Reich music and stockpiles of guns, knives and other weapons. Apart from the stockpile of weapons, in themselves the other items do not pose a threat as they are not per se items that encourages a person fascinated by the extreme far-right national socialist ideology to commit violence. When added to other more incriminating evidence, it can help to prove a person’s mens rea when linked to extreme far-right terrorism.

shelagh fogerty

On the 13th November 2018 I was interviewed by Shelagh Fogerty on the radio channel LBC on the threat the extreme far-right pose to national security. I posted on Twitter that I was looking forward to having the discussion with Shelagh and some of the replies were interesting. One said comparing:

‘…an idiot with a child called Adolph and who wears Klan clothes to Islamist terrorism and religious race hate child abuse is absurd’.

Another saw raising the threat of extreme far-right pose as a ‘false equivalence’ to Islamist terrorism that he saw as a permanent fixture in Britain and is, ‘…likely to get worse’. I think in both the comments posted to Shelagh during my discussion with her and those posted prior and after the discussion showed a lack of real knowledge of why these individuals were convicted and why extreme far-right Neo-Nazi’s are a threat.

Terrorism-Act-2000

Firstly the terrorist related offences they were convicted for were serious offences all carrying a maximum of 10 years imprisonment:
1. Offence of being a member or professing to be a member of a proscribed organisation (section 11 Terrorism Act 2000);
2. Offence of inviting support for proscribed organisations (section 12 terrorism Act 2000);
3. Offence of possessing a document of a kind likely to be useful to persons committing or preparing acts of terrorism (section 58 Terrorism Act 2000).

Being members of National Action all four were convicted for the section 11 offence. Vehvilainen was also convicted for the section 12 offence with Bogunavic convicted for the section 58 offence, which was the possession of the Anarchist Cookbook that informs readers how to make improvised explosive devices. The offences they were convicted of were not simply due to being dressed in Klan clothes or calling a child Adolf, although if worn outside the Klan clothing could potentially amount to an offence under section 13 Terrorism Act 2000 of wearing a uniform in public that gives suspicion they are a member of a proscribed organisation. This is an issue in the North of Ireland with the New IRA and loyalist groups like the UVF and the UFF during marches in the country.

for_britainEDL-tommy-robinson

As Shelagh asked on the LBC programme, why has the UK proscribed extreme far-right groups like National Action? In essence it is because they glorify or promote violence. The national socialist ideology of the Ne-Nazis does this. It is important to differentiate between the extreme far-right Neo-Nazi groups and the far-right such as Tommy Robinson and his followers and parties like the For Britain Party, formed and led by former UKIP leader Anne Marie Waters in 2017. Antifa would have you believe that all far-right parties and groups are Nazis. This is not the case. Many far-right groups and individuals like Tommy Robinson and the For Britain Party do not glorify or promote the use of violence. They have views that many find odious, heretical, offensive or generally unwelcome and at odds with a liberal democracy. For example the For Britain Party are anti-Islam, anti-immigration and promotes British values (to define that is a legal minefield!), but as they do not glorify or promote violence they want to bring about change though democratic and judicial processes.

VehvilainenNational Action 2

Compare this with the extreme far-right Neo-Nazis like Vehvilainen. He posted online to ‘fight the Jew forever’, ‘The sooner [black people] are eliminated the better’ and ‘How anyone can somehow regards n*****s and w***s as human beings and worthy of life is beyond me. I could shoot their children and feel nothing.’ Add this to the evidence that Vehvilainan and his fellow Neo-Nazis were planning to turn depopulated rural villages into national socialist communities and that he posted ‘Every part of me wants war. There is no other way’, we see evidence of both the glorification and promotion of violence. The Nazi memorabilia and items found at Vihvilainen’s accommodation when added to the other evidence related to his mens rea shows his mind-set and factors influencing his thoughts. As seen with other Neo-Nazi groups, they promote and want a race war and an overthrow of any liberal democratic government that tolerates and promotes differences in society. The latter is an absolute anathema to Neo-Nazis, hence why they see the overthrow of governments as necessary in the race war they advocate.
I have a number of blog posts related to the far-right and freedom of expression that you can read on my website, but to put it succinctly, in law freedom of expression allows extreme views that are offensive unless it glorifies or promotes violence. Even though many may find them offensive and unwelcome, a total variance of views and beliefs and the ability to air those views is what makes a true liberal democracy.

Thomas Mairjack Bradshaw

Finally, do extreme far-right Neo-Nazi’s pose a threat to national security? Considering recent activity carried out Neo-Nazi groups or those influenced by Neo-Nazi ideology in the UK, the answer is ‘YES’. In 2015 a National Action member Zak Davies was convicted of attempted murder of a UK citizen of Asian ethnic origin, June 2016 Thomas Mair who was influenced by the extreme far-right assassinated a UK politician, Jo Cox and in June 2018 Jack Renshaw who was linked to National Action was convicted of plotting to kill another UK politician, Rosie Cooper and the police officer investigating him. In addition to the rise in race hate inspired violence, some members or those influenced by Neo-Nazi groups have been found to be in possession of improvised explosive devices where these individuals intended them to be used at mosques and synagogues. While membership of extreme far-right groups is small in number, it only takes a few, even just one individual to cause widespread violence as seen in Norway with Breivik. Do not underestimate the potential of extreme far-right Neo-Nazi groups to carry out attacks. Even when proscribed they morph into new groups as seen with System Resistance Network formed by Alex Davies, who was also one of those who formed National Action, where hopefully this will be the next extreme far-right group to be proscribed.

Raising the fact that extreme far-right terrorism exists in the UK (and other western states) does not mask the very real and potent threat Islamist groups pose to national security as suggested in some of the responses to my tweet, hence why the UK’s terror threat remains at severe. By proscribing extreme far-right Neo-Nazi groups as terrorist organisation and its members as terrorists, the UK government and mainstream media that cover this threat should be applauded not castigated and seen as political correctness to appease the Islamists. By recognising the various extremists who glorify or promote the use of violence as terrorists from the Islamists, extreme far-right and certain Irish republican and loyalist groups, the rationale in doing so is to keep us all safe.

My terrorism book cover

You can read issues raised here in more depth in my book ‘Terrorism: law and Policy’ published by Routledge in 2018