Threats, protest in policing dispute

A District Policing Partnership (DPP) meeting in Belfast was called off on Monday night following a republican protest.

Up to 30 demonstrators gathered outside the Markets Community Centre in the south of the city, and a decision was taken to end the session after it had barely started.

The protesters were angry at Sinn Fein’s decision to take places in the body, which liaises with the PSNI police in local policing matters.

Although most local government powers have been devolved from London to Belfast, responsibility for policing and justice matters have remained in the hands of the British Crown, and the PSNI remains a British police force.

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Alex Maskey was in the audience. “Some of them [protesters] would have been former Sinn Fein supporters, some would never have supported Sinn Fein,” he said.

“This was as much a protest against us as a party engaging with policing as it was against the police. We have a mandate from people in the Markets to engage but I feel it was a mistake to organise a meeting without talking to people in the local community.”

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that some 16 members of Sinn Fein, including eight party councillors, have been told that they are on a death list issued by the ‘Irish Republican Liberation Army’ (IRLA).

The small organisation is understood to have broken away from the Continuity IRA earlier this year.

The IRLA said it was targeting Sinn Fein over their support for the PSNI and new policing structures, such as the DPPs. Last week the gang claimed responsibility for shooting a member of the PSNI in Dungannon, an attack also claimed by the Real IRA. The attack led to the cancellation of the first DPP meeting to be held in the area.

At a press conference on Friday some of those warned by the PSNI appeared in front of the cameras with Sinn Fein Gerry Kelly to challenge the threats.

“These threats are coming from people who claim to be republicans,” said Mr Kelly.

“They are the same people who made repeated threats to the wife of Martin Meehan, Briege, in the days before his sudden death.

“These people have nothing constructive to offer the republican struggle. They have nothing like a fraction of the committed activism of people like Martin and Briege Meehan and the many other republicans that are being threatened.”

Mr Kelly called on the gang behind the threats to “reflect long and hard on their position”.

He added: “They have joined a long line of people including the British state and their surrogate loyalist gangs in threatening and targeting republicans and nationalists.

“These threats and campaigns of violence against our party failed in the past to stop us representing the people who elect us and they will continue to fail in the future.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News