• January 10, 2010

The Celtic League has reiterated its concerns, first voiced in 2008, over the use of military forces to assist the police.

In August/September 2008 units of the Irish Naval Service were deployed to Broadhaven Bay Co Mayo were protests against a proposed gas pipeline were ongoing. The Irish government said at the time that its domestic legislation allowed for the use of military forces in such circumstances.

Recently the Council of Europe Police and Prison `watchdog’ the CPT has published concerns (in relation to policing in Northern Ireland) over military involvement in policing roles.

The League have urged the Council of Europe to ensure that guidance in relation to the disproptionate use of military forces in police roles is applied equitably in respect of both the six counties of Northern Ireland and also the 26 counties currently administered by the Dublin government

CoE correspondence below:

“The Rt Hon Thorbjørn Jagland
Secretary General
Council of Europe
Avenue de l’Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex


Dear Secretary General,

You will recall our correspondence to your predecessor Mr Terry Davis in September 2008 relating to the deployment by the Irish government of military forces to assist in the policing of a civil protest at Broadhaven Bay, Co Mayo.

At the time the Irish government indicated to us that this use of military forces to assist the police was allowed for in domestic legislation.

I am aware that in a recent report prepared by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), following a periodic visit to the United Kingdom, on Police procedures in Northern Ireland criticism of the use of military forces in a civil policing role is aired.

In para 120 of its report the CPT say

“In respect of offences of a terrorist nature, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 had been repealed and replaced by the Terrorism Act 2000 (see paragraph 9). Furthermore, the 2007 Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act contains provisions that deal exclusively with offences designated as acts of terrorism. This latter Act also empowers members of the Armed Forces to stop, arrest and detain, for a maximum of four hours, persons[44] suspected of involvement in any offence, not just terrorism-related offences. The delegation was told that, to date, the Armed Forces had not made use of these powers, and it did not meet any person claiming to have been subjected to them. Nevertheless, in general, the CPT prefers law enforcement tasks to be carried out by well trained and properly equipped civilians rather than by members of the Armed Forces. The CPT would like to be informed of the reasons for giving such law enforcement powers to the Armed Forces, as well as the arrangements currently in place in this respect.”

The CPT seem to aver that even in situations involving alleged terrorist offences it is desirable for a clear separation between civil policing and military involvement.

I do not need to remind you that in relation to the situation in Co Mayo in 2008 we were not dealing with terrorism or even serious crime but civil protest.

In the circumstances and in light of the CPT’s very clear statement will the Council of Europe make clear to the Irish government that the use of military forces to police civil protest is unacceptable in a European democracy and signatory of Council of Europe treaty’s on Human Rights?

We agree wholeheartedly with the CPT’s concern over the use of military forces in a policing role in the six counties of Northern Ireland and it would seem equitable that the same criteria should apply in the 26 counties administered by the Dublin government.

Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information”

Earlier Link with correspondence here:


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