Irish Republican News · December 3, 2009
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ardoyne activists gassed, arrested by PSNI

The son of a former prominent Sinn Fein councillor has accused the PSNI of “political and heavy-handed policing” alter being sprayed with CS gas and arrested in north Belfast on Sunday night.

Mairtin Og Meehan, who suffers from a hereditary heart condition, was released without charge in the early hours of Monday morning after being taken from Antrim Road police station to the Mater hospital.

His father Martin Meehan snr, a former IRA leader in Ardoyne and later a prominent member of Sinn Fein, died of a heart attack in 2007 aged 62.

Mr Meehan is a prominent member of Concerned Families Against Drugs (CFAD), the Ardoyne-based group anti-drugs group, as well as a vocal opponent of sectarian marches through the area.

On Sunday night a blast-bomb-type device was thrown at the north Belfast home of fellow CFAD member Sammy Cusack by unknown attackers.

Several hours later a car in which both Mr Cusack and Mr Meehan were travelling in was stopped by the PSNI just off the Crumlin Road under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, when they say they were assaulted and gassed.

“I was dragged from the car and handcuffed and told I was under arrest for resisting arrest”, Mr Meehan said.

“I told them I was never informed I was being arrested so how could I resist. I started to have problems breathing from the gas and asked to see a doctor but was told I could wait until I got to the station.”

Mr Meehan was released without charge at around 1.30am on Monday after a police doctor advised that he be taken to hospital immediately.

In a statement, the CFAD said the treatment meted out to Mr Meehan was a direct consequence of public accusations that the group is engaged in vigilanteism and has links to dissident groups.

“Later the same night, another prominent member of CFAD, Thomas Cosgrove, was walking home when he was also detained and questioned by the RUC/PSNI in Ardoyne,” they said.

“After refusing to answer one particular question, he too was assaulted, handcuffed and arrested. Mr Cosgrove was held for a number of hours in custody before being charged with ‘assaulting a police officer’ and released on bail.

“During his arrest, Thomas was approached by two members of the Special Branch who informed him, ‘if you don’t give us information we wish to have, your life will be hell’.

“He rightly refused to assist them in their quest for information about CFAD activities. Around twelve hours after his release, Thomas’s home was given a full search by the RUC/PSNI.”

It accused “highly-paid community workers” and Sinn Fein members of engaged in a “concerted campaign of vilification, rumours and lies about every member of the CFAD collective”.

Last month, the British government’s ‘Independent Monitoring Commission’ claimed that the CFAD was a vigilante group which had been involved in a number of shootings of drug dealers, while media reports claimed a link with the breakaway armed group ‘Oglaigh na hEireann’.

In July of this year, another CFAD activist, Aidan Ferguson, was arrested by the PSNI as television cameras who had been tipped off waited outside Mr. Ferguson’s home. Despite being released without charge, Mr Ferguson and his wife subsequently received death threats from unionist paramilitaries and were forced to leave their home.

“Throughout the past year or so, CFAD has taken a large amount of dangerous narcotics off the streets, highlighted the scourge of drugs in working-class communities and exposed dozens of drug barons to the wider public,” the group said.

“Our record speaks for itself and people who live in nationalist areas of North Belfast know only too well, the positive impact our anti-drug campaign has had.”

“Concerned Families Against Drugs (CFAD) demand the immediate end to RUC/PSNI harassment and intimidation and call on fellow community groups and politicans to show solidarity with us.”

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© 2009 Irish Republican News