The British government has been slammed by the European Court of Human Rights for secretly and illegally monitoring every single telephone call, fax message and e-mail between Ireland and Britain for years.
The spying operation covers the period of the early days of the peace process and the run-up to Good Friday Agreement in 1997. It is clear that sensitive communications involving Irish political representatives, including party leaders and government ministers, were vulnerable to interception by the spying.
The mass covert surveillance, which Irish republicans had raised over many years was found to have violated privacy laws.
In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on June 30 that the British government's secret surveillance was not "in accordance with the law".
It said that Britain's spying operation in Ireland did not provide adequate protection against abuse of power and conferred wide discretion to intercept and examine external communications.
The case was taken to the Strasbourg court by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and two British-based human rights agencies, Liberty and British-Irish Rights Watch — whose correspondence was intercepted by British spies between 1990 and 1997. The groups protested that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Responding to the court ruling, Sinn Fein human rights spokesperson Aengus O Snodaigh called for an apology from the British government and for a legally enforceable confirmation that the blanket interception of communications between the citizens of Ireland and Britain is at an end.
[Reprinted from An Phoblacht (Republican News).]