Anti-war demonstrators yesterday occupied the premises of a military contractor in Derry in protest at the company’s involvment in the war in the Middle East and in particular its work for the Israeli Defence Forces.
Nine people -- including veteran civil rights campaigner Eamonn McCann -- forced their way into the Raytheon Systems plant in the city’s Springtown industrial estate when the doors opened yesterday morning.
The company’s technology is used in the manufacture of several high-tech missiles currently being deployed on civilian targets in the Middle East.
Raytheon Systems is understood to be a major supplier of high-tech equipment to Israeli Defence Forces.
The Derry Anti-War Coalition, which occupied the building for the full working day before being ousted by PSNI police, called on Raytheon Systems to cease doing business in the North.
“This is a high-tech business, making technology which is capable of a number of appliances, some of which we see on our television screens daily with the attacks on Lebanon,” said Mr McCann.
Two PSNI negotiators were flown in from Belfast to mediate with the protesters before the situation was peacefully resolved. Nine members of the Anti-War Coalition were arrested.
Chairperson of the Irish Anti-War Movement Richard Boyd Barrett paid tribute to the demonstrators, saying “everybody who is disgusted at the barbaric slaughter of innocent civilians being carried out by Israel in Lebanon and Gaza should pay tribute to the action of the Derry protesters.”
Mr Boyd Barrett said: “It is outrageous that weapons being used by a rogue state like Israel engaged in a criminal military attack and flouting international law are being produced here in Ireland.”
“It is tragic that the Raytheon factory was held up at the time of its opening as an example of the ‘peace-dividend’ for the North, when its function is exporting death and destruction to innocent people in Lebanon, Israel and beyond,” he added.
The PSNI described as “substantial” the damage caused to the building as protesters threw confidential files and documents, computers, printers and hard drives from the first floor.
According to the protesters, the computer system was “completely disabled”.
A banner was unfurled from inside the building, reading “Raytheon has been decommissioned”.
The protesters said if they were formally arrested, charged and cautioned they would deny any offence and challenge the authorities to prosecute them.
“We want our day in court. We want Raytheon in the dock,” said Goretti Horgan, another protest organiser.
Raytheon is the world’s fourth largest arms manufacturer and the largest missile manufacturer.
The company was brought to Derry as part of the so-called “peace dividend” following the ceasefires.