On Tuesday of last week, senior representatives of the IRSP, including party spokesperson Willie Gallagher, were the subject of an SAS-style operation by the British crown forces, it has been revealed.
The team had left a meeting in their party offices on the Falls Road in west Belfast and were going to another meeting in Belfast city centre when their vehicle was surrounded by four unmarked cars containing a number of masked and armed men.
Shocked members of the public then bore witness to screamed threats to shoot the IRSP members as they were forcefully dragged from their vehicle and thrown both to the ground and across the bonnet of the car.
It was only after some considerable time that these masked assailants were identified as members of the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group. Others dressed in civilian clothing were identified as undercover British intelligence forces.
The group have been engaged in talks relating to the recent move to call an end to the armed campaign of the Irish National Liberation Army in the north of Ireland.
“They were screaming ‘show your hands or we’ll open fire’ and seemed highly agitated and up to the millions,” said Mr Gallagher.
“One opened my door, passenger side, still screaming about opening fire telling me to get out.
“My hands were in the air and I told him I couldn’t exit due to the seat belt.
“A gun was put to my held whilst he unlocked the seatbelt and I was dragged out of the car and manhandled across the bonnet.”
Mr Gallagher, who was attending meetings with a colleague from Belfast and another from Derry, said some of his assailants were wearing balaclavas.
“I still couldn’t see what was going on around me at this stage as I was kept across the bonnet with a gun against my head.
“I was searched vigorously for a second time and then pulled over to the side of the road where I could see the comrade from Derry on his knees with his hands behind his head with two [members of the crown forces] pointing weapons at his head.
“While I was on the bonnet the comrade from Belfast was being searched aggressively at the side of the road. A number of other comrades were on the scene after about 15 minutes and witnessed the events from then on.
“The comrade from Belfast was saying afterwards that he asked the cop who had a gun to his head to calm down -- he said the cop was shaking that much he thought the gun was going to discharge.
“They let us go at 2.30pm and we went about our business.”
In a statement, Republican Network for Unity spokesperson Kevin Mc Quillan said it was “clear from the onset that these people were part of a pre-planned and carefully executed operation against publicly recognised members of the IRSP, a party who had been “instrumental in bringing about the declaration by the INLA to disband, verifiably putting arms beyond use and who remain engaged in further talks central to their transition into the political process.
“To the Republican Network for Unity yesterday’s action stands as further evidence, if any were needed, that British covert military activity is both current and active on the streets of the six counties -- that the PSNI remain the same old RUC in nature, outlook and attitude.”