By Jim Gibney (for the Irish News)
The imprisonment of Ardoyne republican Sean Kelly is a blatant act of provocation.
It is aimed at undermining republican confidence in the peace process.
Sean Kelly is not a Johnny Adair figure. Those who put him in prison know this.
He supports the peace process. He has worked tirelessly to defuse interface conflict in Ardoyne.
It is for this reason and no other he is back in prison on a manufactured intelligence report.
What sort of message does this type of sinister manipulation of a man’s liberty send out to republicans?
Evidence that this report is contrived to suit a political attack on the peace process was revealed by news organisations.
They showed recent correspondence from the PSNI to a unionist representative complaining about Sean Kelly’s presence at peaceful protests.
In a curt response the PSNI stated that Kelly was not breaking the law.
In fact, Sean Kelly was defusing tension and preventing sectarian clashes.
Those responsible for his imprisonment are the securocrats, the DUP, some sections of the media and a secretary of state, still wet behind the ears, who thinks it beneficial to pander to the DUP.
Sean Kelly was easy prey for those who have tried many times to derail the peace process.
Loyalist politicians opposed his release and demanded his re-arrest but took a completely different attitude towards Adair-led loyalists when they were creating havoc on the Shankill Road.
And this weekend as in previous years the same loyalist politicians will walk in an Orange parade on the Springfield Road, which has for years been imposed on the nationalist people of that area and in the past included a banner glorifying a UVF man who killed a Catholic.
For many republicans, Sean Kelly’s arrest confirms for them that the peace process is in a crisis.
The implications of Peter Hain’s decision to imprison Kelly are on a par with Mo Mowlam’s decision to force an Orange parade down the Garvaghy Road a short time after she arrived here.
Mowlam’s credibility among republicans never fully recovered from that decision.
I suspect Hain will suffer similarly.
The new British secretary of state shares the same Christian name with a previous secretary of state, Peter Mandelson.
He needs to be careful this early in his tenure he doesn’t end up being viewed as negatively as Mandelson.
The news of Kelly’s imprisonment was breaking as the people of Ardoyne were dealing with the violence of an Orange parade forced past their district.
Ardoyne is a small community.
They suffered grievously and disproportionately during the conflict.
Ninety-nine people lost their lives.
Hundreds of men and women were in jail.
For 20 years the people lived under military occupation.
They have been traumatised as a result.
They must be wondering to themselves if they are ever going to live in a society which respects and protects them.
If the comments of the PSNI officer in charge of the Ardoyne operation are anything to go by then we are a long way from that.
He told the press his main concern was to “force the parade and supporters through”.
He said nothing about the effect of his actions on the people of Ardoyne nor did he make a comment about the Orange Order insisting on walking past Ardoyne.
Indeed this year there is practically no focus on the consequences of the Orange Order’s marching plans.
This anti-Catholic organisation is threatening violence if it is prevented from marching where it wants to.
Their threats are being echoed by the DUP.
It is obvious the Orange Order and the DUP are out to test the resolve of the British government.
The British government must stand firm against this sectarian intimidation.
Orange Order marches should be re-routed away from areas where they are not wanted and where they cause - and are intended to cause - deep offence.
And Sean Kelly, a pro-agreement, pro-peace process republican activist should be released immediately.