Former political prisoners associated with the republican socialist movement have reacted with anger after the offices of a support group was raided by the PSNI police yesterday.
The offices of Teach na Failte in Strabane, County Tyrone, and on the Falls Road in Belfast were searched and documents were removed during a series of raids carried out across the North yesterday morning which saw 20 homes and businesses targeted.
Set up almost ten years ago, Teach na Failte works with former Irish National Liberation Army prisoners.
A Teach na Failte spokesperson said a number of homes belonging to Teach na Failte employees were also raided by several heavily armed PSNI units.
A leading figure in the ex-prisoner’s group, Eddie McGarrigle, hit out at the PSNI after he was tossed from his wheelchair by a PSNI man attempting to pull the shutters down outside the group’s Strabane office.
“At a time when Teach na Failte is getting its doors sledgehammered open Bertie Ahern met with political representatives of a group [the UVF] that has killed 28 people since its ceasefire,” said Mr McGarrigle.
“What is Bertie Ahern going to say about these raids?
“Two years ago he spoke about his support of Teach na Failte and the republican socialist movement and the direction they are taking.
“The mood of the republican socialist movement and former INLA prisoners is one of absolute anger.
“They have taken away all our funding documents and put a lot of people out of employment.
“For over ten years we have been peace building and working towards conflict resolution and this work can all be verified.”
Mr McGarrigle said some 25 houses had been searched and eight of them had some connection to Teach na Failte or the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the rest having “no connection whatsoever”.
“None of the houses connected to Teach na Failte or IRSP had any criminal papers taken from them. Most of those questioned had nothing to do with the IRSP.”
Mr McGarrigle also said he believed the searches were politically motivated.
“Three weeks ago I called for dissident republicans to call a cessation to their armed campaign,” he said.
“Since then I have been stopped every day going to work.
“I have been out of jail for 18 years and my house hasn’t been searched for 18 years. Now the police have come bursting through the door.
“It is as if they want to try and get some response from the INLA. People on the ground here are furious.”
Paul Little, spokesman for the INLA-linked Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), said it condemned the “totally unwarranted searches” of party and Teach na Failte offices and homes.
“These searches are little more than a politically-motivated fishing exercise and an attempt by the PSNI/RUC to blacken the good name of Teach na Failte, a well-respected former prisoners association whose work is mostly welfare-based” he said.
“There is absolutely no justification for these raids or their violent nature. The PSNI have demonstrated once again that they are not a new beginning to policing but rather a new politically motivated paramilitarist force, that excels in all the bad traits of the RUC.
“New uniform, same old story.”