Republicans have reacted angrily to the arrest and summary imprisonment of prominent north Belfast republican Sean Kelly.

Kelly, who was released from jail under the Good Friday Agreement five years ago, was rearrested on Saturday and taken to Maghaberry Prison.

British Direct Ruler Peter Hain claimed that Kelly had become “re-involved in terrorism”. However Hain did not outline any specific reasons for Kelly’s return to prison.

PSNI police chief Hugh Orde has also refused to say why Kelly has been jailed, but said it was based on events “over a period of time”.

The arrest followed heavy clashes in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast as the highly contentious ‘Tour of the North’ Protestant parade was forced through the nationalist community. However, it has emerged that Mr Kelly was not present.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has already spoken to both the Dublin and London governments about the arrest which he said was “unjust and reprehensible”.

Party colleague Gerry Kelly said: “Sean Kelly has done nothing to warrant this harsh decision and should be released without delay.

“This was a calculated decision that will increase tensions in north Belfast and elsewhere in the middle of the marching season. It was a cynical decision.

“It was a serious mistake for Peter Hain to acquiesce to the demands of unionists and securocrats opposed to the peace process in signing the order of Mr Kelly’s licence to be revoked. Mr Hain will compound this error of judgement unless he acts to reverse this decision.

“Mr Kelly was released under the Good Friday Agreement and has played an important role in support of the agreement and the peace process. He has also played an invaluable and positive role in keeping the situation calm at interfaces in north Belfast.”

He said the Irish government had a responsibility to the people of the North.

“The Irish Government has an obligation as co-equal partners in the peace process to sort this out,” he said.

He described the arrest as “internment” and “a political decision that needs to be reversed”

The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, said later he “intends finding out” what motivated the action.

The Taoiseach said: “Either it is a mistake or else they [the PSNI and the Secretary of State] have substantial evidence to prove he wasn’t kosher. At this time I don’t know... but I intend finding out.”

Coiste na n-Iarchimi, the republican ex-prisoners group, condemned the arrest as “disturbing and provocative”.

Raymond McCartney, Chairman of Coiste, said: “This worrying development will heighten tensions.

“We do not see this disgraceful decision as making any contribution to defusing the volatile situation developing in Ardoyne.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News