There has been a protest at Derry courthouse this [Friday] morning following the arrest and detention of prominent local republican Gary Donnelly.
One of the most prominent dissident republicans in Derry, Mr Donnelly was arrested on Wednesday night and questioned at the serious crime suite at Antrim interrogation centre. He has now been charged in connection with “terrorist crime”.
A leading member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM), Donnelly was involved in talks with the authorities last week which led to the cancellation of a white-line picket close to the route of last Saturday’s major loyalist parade through the city.
The move helped de-escalate tensions and prevented the outbreak of violence in Derry. It has also been claimed that larger, ‘secret’ talks or contacts are ongoing between the dissident groups and the British government.
In 2008, Donnelly and three other men spent nine months on remand in the 26 Counties after he was charged with membership of the ‘Real IRA’.
The four men were arrested by gardai when they were stopped in the company of a group of journalists in County Donegal.
All four were released in December Z008 when their trial collapsed.
In a related development, British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson today ruled out negotiating with dissident republicans until they “commit to peaceful means”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme it was hard to identify who discussions should take place with.
His comments come after it was revealed by Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that both the Dublin and London Governments are involved in secret talks with the breakaway groups.
The claims have been denied by both administrations, and today Mr Paterson told the programme: “Our position is completely clear and it’s consistent with previous governments.
“You cannot have meaningful talks, serious discussions, real negotiations - whatever you want to call them - with people who are not absolutely committed to peaceful means of pursuing their goals.”
But asked if the British government was involved in “contacts”, he went on: “We never discuss operational issues”.
“The problem we have is I don’t think we are quite there yet,” he said. “At the beginning of your question you mentioned the nature of these groups - they are small, they are fragmentary, they keep splitting and breaking and different people take over.”
He declared that the dissidents were trying to kill children.
“It’s not absolutely clear who you should be talking to, but the position of the Government is completely clear - we cannot talk to people who are still trying to kill 12-year-olds and two-year-olds, as they did last week.”