A prominent member of eirigi was detained for seven hours and charged with a string of offences after he intervened to check on the welfare of a neighbour who was having his car searched by the PSNI.
Stephen Murney, eirigi’s Newry area representative, said he was also verbally attacked and then physically assaulted by the PSNI after he expressed his concern at raids in the Derrybeg area of the town.
Runai ginearalta [general secretary] of eirigi, Breandan Mac Cionnaith, said the assault and arrest of Mr Murney was the culmination of a long campaign against republicans in the area by the PSNI.
“Republicans in Newry, including eirigi activists and supporters, have been suffering incessant harassment at the hands of the PSNI for some time now. This harassment has included assaults, arrests, house searches and constant stop and searches. In the last number of weeks, the PSNI has decided to add to this list the policy of harassing parents outside schools when they are dropping their children off or picking them up.
“Yesterday, the PSNI began yet another day by raiding homes on the Derrybeg estate and, later, searching cars in the area. eirigi representative Stephen Murney was present in both instances to offer solidarity to the affected residents. However, the PSNI decided to take exception to his presence and moved to arrest him, punching, kicking and threatening him with further violence in the process.
“After seven hours in custody in Armagh barracks, in the course of which the political police demanded unsuccessfully that he document political activities in Derrybeg, Stephen was charged with a string of spurious offences. We will be challenging these charges and are confident they can be beaten.”
Mr Murney said a large convoy of armoured landrovers and cars descended on the Derrybeg estate and were engaged in raiding a home in the area when he visited the victims.
Some three hours later, another neighbour was getting his car searched by the PSNI when a small crowd of residents had gathered, and he again asked after his welfare.
“The cops came straight over and told me to ‘F*ck off up the street’ and mind my own business. I told them I was concerned at the treatment my neighbour was receiving as well as them tormenting the residents of Derrybeg on a regular basis and that I would stay to observe what was happening.
“I was then grabbed by both arms by two of the thugs, who then assaulted me. They took me over to a wall and pushed me into it with such force one of the coping stones came off. They twisted my arms up my back and placed the handcuffs on me. I was then punched in the ribs several times and kicked in the legs while I was handcuffed. On two occasions, one of the officers told me he was going to break my jaw.
“This happened in full view of numerous residents, including my mother and sister, who were all disgusted with the cops and challenged them. The PSNI then aggressively pushed and shoved them out of the way. The residents of Derrybeg should be commended for challenging them.
“I was then taken to Armagh barracks where I was photographed and had my fingerprints and DNA taken.
“At the barracks, a doctor examined me and noted cuts, marks and swelling to my wrists and arms and bruised and sore ribs. I was held for roughly seven hours, during which time the PSNI attempted unsuccessfully to conduct an “intelligence interview” with me. I was then released on bail to appear in court on October 26.”
Mac Cionnaith added: “There is no longer any doubt that the PSNI is both incapable and unwilling to transform itself into a civic police service. The force is nothing more than a sectarian unionist militia, dedicated to protecting the British occupation.
“While incidents like yesterday’s are habitually greeted with silence and indifference by the PSNI’s nationalist cheerleaders on the Six County Policing Board, people in working class communities are increasingly willing to stand up to these thugs in uniform. This was witnessed in Derrybeg yesterday when many residents left their homes to challenge the PSNI when they were assaulting and arresting Stephen.
“eirigi will not take the mistreatment of its membership by state forces lying down. The PSNI should be aware that the party will not be deterred by any amount of harassment or beatings. Anyone who is suffering similar behaviour at the hands of the PSNI should contact their solicitor or eirigi.”