Nationalist youths threw petrol bombs and other missiles at the PSNI on Saturday following an aggressive raid and arrest operation in Lurgan and Craigavon in north Armagh.
Masked youths also blocked the main railroad that goes between Belfast and Dublin, which runs alongside the town’s republican Kilwilkie district.
The unrest came in direct response to the arrest in the town on Saturday of leading republican and former eirigi spokesperson Colin Duffy.
Duffy’s arrest, after a lifetime of PSNI/RUC harassment, false arrests and false imprisonment comes at a controversial time. Duffy was a prominent client of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson, and this week marked the tenth anniversary of Nelson’s assassination, in which the RUC stands accused of taking part.
The annual St Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled in Lurgan as a result of the disturbances.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness dismissed the disturbances which he said was the product of the “manipulation” of young people by “micro-groups” opposed to peace.
Further trouble is expected this weekend, however, after a report that the PSNI has obtained a ‘block warrant’, which would enable them to raid each and every home in the Drumbeg and Meadowbrook areas of Craigavon in County Armagh.
Scores of premises in the area have already been raided, including at least thirty in a major operation on Monday, March 16th.
A spokesperson for Republican Sinn Fein said that block raids would inevitably be met with further “resistance” from the people of the area.
“As always, the youth of the area have shown remarkable courage when resisting the British forces of occupation,” he said.
He also made other accusations against the PSNI over the course of the past week.
“In one instance the person named on the search warrant had not resided at the address for nearly two decades,” he said.
“One man was informed by the RUC of a threat to his life by an unnamed loyalist death squad. Whilst delivering notification of the death threat, the British colonial police laughed incessantly about the situation.
“The number of people being detained is rising constantly, with two of these being held since last Tuesday. It has also emerged that one of the detainees was seriously assaulted by the RUC during the course of his arrest.
“We have also received reports of young women being searched along with their prams when coming into and out of estates in the area. This has become a regular occurrence over the past couple of years when the area has been raided.
“Republican Sinn Fein urges the people of North Armagh to stand firm against the brutal repression currently being employed by Martin McGuinness and John O’Dowd’s bedfellows in the RUC.”
ST PATRICK’S DAY CLASHES
In Belfast, meanwhile, riots broke out when the PSNI clashed with nationalist residents and other revellers in the Holylands area of the city on the national feast day.
The worst such violence for several years was linked to the fine weather as well as an increasing radicalisation of the student body in Belfast.
Local residents said the conflict began when the PSNI assaulted a female student while making an arrest. Other students became involved and a riot quickly ensured, with some firing missiles including petrol bombs and shouting ‘SS RUC’.
The PSNI denied any role in starting the riot, which they said had been caused by alcohol and had no political significance.
More than twenty people were arrested after the disturbances, which left two PSNI members and several students injured.
South Belfast MP Dr McDonnell of the SDLP called on the university authorities to expel any student involved.
“The situation is intolerable,” he said.
“These are supposed to be the professionals of the future but they are abusing the privileged position they have been given.
“They are no longer fit to be subsidised by the public purse.”