I often travel through Glasgow airport and the huge steel bollards there remind me of that awful day in June 2007.
It could, of course, have been so much worse.
In the post 911 world all is changed, changed utterly.
I think how the security people there must be run off their feet given that Glasgow is a busy international airport getting direct flights from places like Egypt, Dubai and Turkey. Those planes disgorge so many people who are, of course, entirely innocent of any ill-intent. That said there could be one among the crowd, and it only takes one. The suicide bomber intent on reaching paradise is a security game changer.
At the top on a pile of people trying to keep the airport a safe place are the police officers tasked with sifting through the thousands of innocent travellers.
It goes without saying that value to society of these highly trained and specialised police officers must be on par with a heart surgeon.
Wasting police time is a criminal offence.
Wasting the time of a Special branch officer must be something worse.
At the end of the day they follow orders and someone higher up the food chain prioritises their tasks.
With that in mind I was fascinated when I was recently contacted by a 42 years old man, a native of Antrim, who lives in Scotland where he works as a civil servant.
This is his story:
“I was over for a family wedding and flew over on Monday afternoon with no problems at all.
I spent the week with my family in Larne and then flew back on Friday 5.35 Belfast International to Glasgow airport.
I noticed two Branch men in the departure lounge in Belfast International, but never paid it much attention. There was a group of Rangers fans heading to Glasgow on the same flight so thought they might have been watching them. The flight passed without incident.
I then came up through the arrivals bit at the airport and past the departure lounges.
When I had got past the two guys on the security desk when one of them shouted “excuse me Sir” I blanked it and walked on and he shouted “Mr (he called me by name) could you come this way please?”
At the security desk he asked for my passport and started flicking through it asking where I’d been, where I was going etc. Then he was asking why I’d been to Lithuania, Israel, States and Russia. That went on for five minutes and he said they’d need to ask me further questions. Not to be alarmed it was just routine.
They took me downstairs to an empty departure lounge (it’s the one Aer Lingus use for flights to New York via Dublin)
There was already an Asian looking man sitting in the lounge. He never spoke throughout my time there and was taking notes. He handed the first guy two brown folders.
The first guy then sat on the benches opposite him and motioned to me to sit beside him.
I was expecting to be questioned about dissident Republican support in Scotland or something like that so I was taken aback when he looked at me and says “are you a member of the Green Brigade” I was looking at him like it was a trick question so I says “no!”
Next questions where:
‘Do you know any members of the Green Brigade?’
‘Are you aware of the politics of the Green Brigade?’
‘Do you have any involvement in the planning of the Green Brigade?’
All of which are ‘no!’
So he goes in to one of the folders and produces two photos. One of me outside Celtic Park at the poppy protest and one in George Square at the FAC protest and asked me to explain them.
So the first one I told him was a legitimate protest by disparate groups of Celtic fans against the poppy on the shirts and the second I was in George Square feeding the pigeons.
He then went on about me going to these protests and drinking on the Gallowgate yet I don’t know anything about the Green Brigade. How could that be?
Then he started on why I sit in 414 at Celtic Park. Was I a lookout for the Green Brigade?
Then he asked what my employers would think about my involvement with the Green Brigade and how did I get clearance for the job I have.
I was one of the founder members of the Green Brigade back when we split from the Jungle Bhoys but have had nothing to do with them for years. Certainly nothing since 2007.
He then started on the Green Brigades opinion on Irish politics. Did they support the shooting of policemen? How did I feel about the shooting of policeman? Why at a time when everybody is working towards peace are they trying to be divisive? Couldn’t help him with any of that and told him I wasn’t interested in politics.
He then gave me the PTA form [Prevention of Terrorism Act] to fill in.
He wrapped it up then by saying he had a feeling I was being deliberately uncooperative and would be looking for me to be more helpful next time we met.
I phoned my mate in the Green Brigade when I got out the airport to let him know about it and logged it with my solicitor yesterday in case there is any more contact from them.”
“Almost 20 years after the ceasefires the Irish community in Scotland are still enduring political policing. I refuse to be criminalised because of the football team I support. One Scotland many cultures should be more than a catchphrase!”
I said to him that it is good to know that the Al Qaeda threat has lessened to such an extent that Special Branch officers at Glasgow International airport, a very scarce resource, now had time to assess the threat to the Realm from the singing section at Celtic Park.
We both laughed.