Sinn Fein has warned that a lack of confidence in the PSNI police is encouraging illegal activity in border areas.
Local Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy spoke out after the son of a prominent republican was injured in an attack outside Crossmaglen on Wednesday.
Frank McCabe Jnr (pictured) suffered injuries to the arms and face when a pipe bomb exploded at around 5am on Wednesday morning. The device exploded as he attempted to remove a poster labelling a family member as a ‘tout’ from near the family home.
Sinn Fein said there had been death threats against his father, Frank McCabe Snr, as well as Mr Murphy himself in recent weeks.
The incident represents a worrying development in a battle for public support in the South Armagh and North Louth region.
British forces have long promoted criminal activity as a tactic to undermine and challenge republican communities. South Armagh was itself once referred to as ‘bandit country’ by journalists who demonised the area as a hotbed of crime and insurrection.
The PSNI, and formerly the RUC, have traditionally avoided patrolling the staunchly republican area for fear of IRA attack. While the Provisional IRA has long since disbanded in the area, a breakaway armed group known as Oglaigh na hEireann has operated in the area in recent years.
Sinn Fein has alleged that some of those currently involved in illegal activity in the area are linked to Oglaigh na hEireann, who they describe as an “unrepresentative militarist faction”. The party called for a show of solidarity from its supporters on Sunday in the wake of the attack and the threats against its members.
“This area is a republican heartland and bedrock of support for Sinn Fein’s peace strategy,” it said. “The party’s electoral strength in the area, and widespread respect for the local republican leadership was a central element in Sinn Fein’s decision to support policing in 2007.”
But it said here had been a “sinister and systematic upswing” in illegal activity across the area, which the PSNI and Gardai police across the border had failed to act against, “despite the active support of local people”.
And Mr Murphy warned of “another agenda” being operated by the PSNI to oppose Sinn Fein’s political strategy.
He said that “criminals” were being “protected by the protocols which govern policing in the north, in particular the way the PSNI respond to reports of criminal activity”.
Newry Armagh Assembly member Megan Fearon added, “While it is the Tories who have imposed austerity cuts to public services it is the PSNI who are responsible for scrapping neighbourhood policing in south Armagh.”