Lurgan dissident republican 'finds bugs in his car'

By Vincent Kearney
BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

image captionThe man said a listening device was found in his car

A dissident republican from Lurgan, County Armagh, is taking legal action after finding surveillance equipment hidden in his car.

The man, who does not want to be named, is a member of the Republican Network for Unity.

He discovered what appear to be battery packs and a transmitter hidden behind the rear bumper of his car.

They are believed to have been attached to a listening device hidden somewhere in the vehicle.

There was also a smaller device, believed to be a GPS locator that would have enabled those who planted it to track his movements as well as listen to anything said inside the car.

The man believes the equipment was placed in his car after he refused an attempt to recruit him as an informer.

He told the BBC he was approached at Belfast International Airport in April as he waited to board a plane to fly to Spain with his wife.

"Two men introduced themselves as members of the British security services and asked me if I would be willing to work for them. I refused," he said.

"A few weeks ago Martin McGuinness said there is still a dark side of policing, well this is it.

"This is not the work of ordinary police officers, this is clearly the work of special branch, MI5, the Army, or a combination of all of them."

The man brought the equipment to a solicitor in Belfast on Thursday morning and has now initiated legal action.

image captionA GPS locator is also believed to have been in the car

Solicitor Kevin Winters said complaints will be lodged with the Police Ombudsman and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which investigates complaints about the activities of MI5.

"We do not know who is responsible for planting these devices so are making complaints to the ombudsman and the body set up to investigate allegations against the security services," he said.

"This kind of activity represents one of the worst types of oppressive state interference in a person's rights to privacy it also puts his life at risk as he was previously asked to work as an informer.

"We are now due to contact the PSNI or any agency so directed to collect their property for safe guarding."

'House raided'

The man at the centre of these complaints, referred to by his solicitor as Mr X, claims he has been subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment since refusing to agree to work for the security services,

"My house has been raided three times in recent weeks, my car has been bugged and I'm watched every time I step outside my front door," he claimed.

The discovery of listening devices is nothing new. There have been many similar discoveries during the past 40 years, including one hidden in a car regularly used by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

The police and security services argue that they are an essential part of their armoury in their efforts to minimise the risk posed by dissident republican groups.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott secured an additional quarter of a billion pounds of security funding from the Treasury over a four-year period.

image captionSolicitor Kevin Winters said complaints will be lodged with the Police Ombudsman and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal,

Much of the money was used to pay for covert policing operations aimed at monitoring and disrupting the activities of dissident republican groups.

The security service MI5 and the Army's Special Reconnaissance Regiment are also involved in covert operations, including surveillance of known and suspected members of these groups.

They argue that it would be negligent not to observe individuals who may be involved in dissident activity, and say covert policing has resulted in large numbers of planned attacks being disrupted.