Riots in Armagh as SAS men testify
Riots in Armagh as SAS men testify

Shots were fired during serious riots in Craigavon and Lurgan, both in north County Armagh, on Wednesday night.

The trouble broke out following the arrest of two alleged “dissidents” by the PSNI in the Craigavon area earlier on Wednesday and as a Diplock trial of three local men got underway in Belfast.

Three masked men hijacked and set fire to a bus at the Drumbeg roundabout in Craigavon on Wednesday night. A van was also hijacked and burned on the Old Portadown Road in Lurgan. Barricades were also reportedly mounted on the Brownlow Road and the Monbrief Road in the town. and petrol bombs and stones were thrown at fire crews who arrived to put out the burning vehicles.

The riots lasted around five hours and a number of roads were still blocked late on Thursday morning.

Sinn Féin has claimed that ‘agents provocateur’ -- informers posing as militant republicans -- are involved in the agitation and are being protected from prosecution by the PSNI.

“The question the community is asking more and more is how these individuals continue to operate in the community with apparent immunity,” Sinn Féin assembly member John O’Dowd said.

“There is a suggestion that some of them are involved in some level as informers or agents and if they are I would call for their immunity to be lifted immediately and for those people to be put through the judicial process.”


Meanwhile, an SAS soldier gave evidence to a Belfast court this week against three north Armagh men -- the first time in 20 years that anyone from the top-secret British army regiment has done so.

A soldier identified only as ‘F’, who was described as a member of an unnamed specialist surveillance unit within the SAS, gaved evidence in the trial of three County Armagh men charged with republican activities.

British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward has issued gag orders preventing the soldiers or their unit from being identified.

News that a total of nine SAS operatives are due to give evidence against the men shows that sinister British elements remain active in Ireland, a spokesman for Republican Sinn Féin has said.

“Whilst they ply their murderous trade in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, this latest development shows that Ireland remains a theatre of operations for them too.

“Although Operation Banner has since been renamed Operation Helvetic, there is no doubt that such nefarious Crown activities persist.

“The giving of evidence via video-link, and in secret, can only compromise the ability of these men to receive a fair trial.

“So too does the issuing of a so-called ‘Public Interest Immunity Certificate’, which prevents any details which may be of use to the defence from being elicited. It would appear that we are all set to witness yet another show-trial.”

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© 2008 Irish Republican News