Invasive Powers Granted To PSNI Must Never Be Repeated

The revelation that the Housing Executive provided the PSNI with master keys to the homes of those living in seven North Belfast tower flats without the permission or knowledge of the residents that live there sets an extremely dangerous precedent.

This decision which was taken in early June was completely hidden from those affected, residents only becoming aware of the PSNI’s access to their homes after people from one of the aforementioned tower blocks realised that members of the security forces had repeatedly gained access to the properties.

The Housing Executive granting carte blanche access to the PSNI under the ambiguous guise of issues relating to Article 2, the right to life,  will undoubtedly have affected the public’s willingness to trust this body in the future. Claims of ambiguity in relation to the use of the keys provided are made all the more prevalent  due to the PSNI’s refusal to give clarification as to the circumstances in which it’s officers have thus far entered the properties of the residents.

Currently we await clarification from the PSNI as to whether or not the they have similar access to other homes and the Housing Executive has claimed an investigation is ongoing into this incident.

RNU Ard Chomhairle member and Belfast activist Nathan Stuart had this to say about the recent revelations:

“Republican Network for Unity stand in condemnation of this clear and sinister breach of the public’s trust and privacy. The shocking revelations that the PSNI could be empowered to enter the homes of hundreds of residents without forewarning or consultation is nothing short of scandalous.”

“In a relatively peaceful society, a public body acting in this fashion would come under severe scrutiny as the right to privacy has been ignored, a consultation process non-existent and as it is common sense that an individual or family should have full knowledge as to who has access to their home and why. Ireland being a post-conflict society and Belfast in particular having experienced some of the worst violence of that conflict in which the state was not a neutral actor but acted as an aggressor against the nationalist population. This fact makes what has transgressed between the Housing Executive and the PSNI all the more sinister.”

“The resident organisations that challenged this invasive access must be commended, it is likely that similar powers of intrusion exist elsewhere in the North and have simply gone unnoticed. The residents of the North Belfast tower flats have succeeded in not only raising this issue but as a result of their opposition the PSNI was forced to return the keys in their possession. This is a step in the right direction but a permanent solution is required. It is very likely that this has been a case of flying the metaphorical kite, to judge which way the wind blows and due to the commendable actions of the affected residents, it did not blow in the  favour of the security forces in this instance.”

“The PSNI’s limited response to questioning in regards to this incident has been utterly unacceptable and an insult to the residents that demand and deserve answers. We will await expectantly on the findings of the investigation of the Housing Executive however we should state clearly that cast-iron guarantees in the form of legally binding protections are required  so that this breach of trust will not be repeated. Failure to do so will undoubtedly result in any investigation and any rhetoric connected to it being labelled disingenuous and deceiving, and the reputational harm done as a result should not be dismissed .”