Colour party uniforms belonging to Republican Sinn Fein due to be used during an annual easter commemoration in Lurgan this Saturday have been seized during police raids in Craigavon.
It is understood as many as 18 uniforms were taken from a house in the Drumbeg estate last week. The uniforms were bought to replace two sets previously taken by the PSNI and they are regularly used during events organised by the traditional republican party.
The same set of uniforms is believed to have been used by a guard of honour at the funeral of Co Donegal republican Joe O’Neill who died last year.
The items recovered included trousers, jumpers, boots, scarves and berets.
While it is not clear why they were seized it is understood a number of people arrested in the north armagh area recently have been questioned about images that appeared in a calendar produced by republican Sinn Fein. RSF spokesman Martin Duffy condemned the PSNI operation, claiming it was “heavy handed.”
“This happens the same time every year when republican Sinn Fein is holding a commemoration,” he said.
“It’s just harassment to try and stop it but they won’t stop it.”
Sinn Féin in Omagh has also condemned the PSNI after a party activist was arrested and another cautioned while promoting the sale of the Easter Lily in the town.
The Easter Lily is traditionally worn by Irish republicans to remember Ireland’s Patriot Dead and to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.
It is understood that the incident happened on Wednesday night at Gortmore Park in the town.
The chairperson of the town council, Sinn Fein’s Marty McColgan, condemed the police action, which he described as “retrograde political policing”.
“We have the crazy situation, where I officially launched the Easter Lily in the Council Offices yesterday, yet today the PSNI are arresting and cautioning republicans for promoting it.
“Following a long litany of complaints against the PSNI in Omagh, this latest action will further reinforce the collapse of public confidence in the PSNI locally.
“We will be challenging the PSNI to ensure that political policing like this is ended. We will be raising this incident through our Policing Board members.”
Meanwhile, the organisers of an independent republican Easter commemoration march have been ordered by the Parades Commission not to play music in a nationalist district of north Belfast - although a loyalist parade in the same area has been cleared to do so just two days later.
The republican parade, which is organised by Carrick Hill Friends of Erin go Bragh Flute Band, is due to take place through the nationalist district at 2.15pm on Easter Saturday.
Organisers reacted angrily last night after it emerged that no restrictions have been placed on a loyalist band taking part in an Apprentice Boys parade along Clifton Street on Easter Monday.
Parade organiser Emanuel Conway described the Parades Commission decision as “illogical” and confirmed the Parades Commission will be asked to carry out a review.
“The parade will not be touching on any interface but according to the Parades Commission they received oral representations which, we must assume led to this decision being made,” he said.
“The members of the Parades Commission must be ignorant of the geography of the area.
“The road which is Carrick Hill is a populated area with houses and flats/apartments on both sides of the road.
“The determination therefore would make it illegal for anyone to come out of their home to await or follow the band.”
North Belfast Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee hit out at the ruling.
“This determination makes no sense. This parade is by some of the residents of Carrick hill and is not being held by people from outside the area as is the case with loyal order parades,” he said.
“The parade should not be restricted in this way as it is non- contentious and the determination is illogical.”
DUNDALK SAYS NO
And Sinn Fein has been ordered by Dundalk Town Council to remove Irish tricolour flag erected in the town’s main square. The council wrote to the party after members had put up flags in Market Square in preparation for Sunday’s commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Sinn Fein counillor Kevin Meenan criticised the stance of the council, describing it as “mental.”
He said that every year members of the local commemoration committee put up several flags along a route that takes marchers from the square to the republican monument at St Patrick’s Cemetery.
The march takes place on Easter Sunday afternoon and the flags are removed by the evening of Easter Monday.
Mr Meenan said that on foot of the council’s communication, flags were removed from the square but the others were left flying.
“People are just wondering why our national flag had to be taken down at all. This is a flag that causes no offence to anybody down here [in the 26 Counties],” he added.