The PSNI police have again set up a number of road checkpoints across the North amid a general increase in tension between the British Crown forces and republican hardliners.
Following the publication of a newspaper interview with the ‘Real IRA’, PSNI Chief Hugh Orde claimed that republican militants were “lashing out”.
Leading Derry republican Gary Donnelly was among a number of people stopped and searched by the PSNI as part of a major Crown force operation across the North.
Vehicle checkpoints appeared throughout the north for the first time in years, beginning in Derry and spreading east.
Orde issued an unspecific warning of a republican threat. “What we are seeing is a group of disorganised but dangerous people lashing out - that’s why we’re concerned,” he said.
A spokesman for the 32 County Sovereignty Movement said the increased security was an effort to criminalise republicans. Martin O’Neill, a spokesman for the group in the north west, said British military intelligence MI5 was behind the move.
Meanwhile, there were disturbances in Newry this week as a fifth man was arrested in the area in less than 48 hours, including two former republican prisoners. Last night one was still being interrogated by the PSNI at Antrim police station.
Nationalist youths in the city were involved in confrontations with the PSNI, who maintained a large presence in the area and deployed a helicopter over thr town for most of the day.
A senior member of Republican Sinn Féin in Newry was also among those arrested on Tuesday. He was released yesterday without charge. The party said the raids were about intimidating known republicans.
REPUBLICAN UNITY TALK
Meanwhile, republicans of strongly differing viewpoints sought to resolve their differences at an event organised as part of the Bloody Sunday commemorations this week.
The ‘Truth and lies’ discussion event, which was organised by the ‘Republican Network for Unity’, was attended by more than 300 local people in the Gasyard Centre on Monday night.
The discussion was chaired by Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre and the panel was made up of Eamonn McCann, Socialist Environmental Alliance, Francis Mackey, 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Gary Fleming, Sinn Féin, and independent republican Tony Catney.
Policing was a major source of argument among the various groups, with all panelists agreeing that the issue has not yet been solved. Sinn Féin’s Gary Fleming acknowledged that the PSNI are not perfect but defended his party’s endorsement of policing last year.
Local republican Tony Taylor disagreed with that position and claimed policing had not changed since it was endorsed by Sinn Féin.
“At the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in 2006, Gerry Kelly said the old RUC would be unrecognisable in the PSNI but what has changed? If anyone thinks the police have changed could they explain how the details of republicans which continue to be held by the RUC/PSNI are still falling into the hands of loyalist paramilitaries. That seems like a kick back to the bad old days of the RUC to me” he said.
Francis Mackey also said republicans should not be supporting the PSNI. “What we have in the North at the minute is what we have always had; political policing. Sinn Féin may talk about accountability but what sort of accountability is it when you ask questions but get no answers. The DPPs [District Policing Partnerships] are a cosmetic sop. Those who signed up for them are now obliged to call republicans criminals,” he said.