Internment fears for residents’ spokesperson
Internment fears for residents’ spokesperson


A republican activist who has campaigned against sectarian parades in north Belfast has been arrested and charged in connection with a speech he made at Easter.

Dee Fennell, a spokesperson and chairperson of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC), described armed struggle against British occupation as “legitimate” when speaking to republicans at a gathering to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising in Lurgan on Easter Sunday.

In his speech, he said the right to use force to oppose foreign occupation was “a fundamental principle that cannot and will not be abandoned by activists involved in our struggle”.

He also compared the British occupation in Ireland in 1916 to the plight of the Six Counties today.

He said: “The use of arms prior to 1916 was legitimate. The use of arms in Easter 1916 was legitimate. The use of arms after 1916 was totally legitimate.

“In the existing political context of partition, illegal occupation and the denial of national self-determination, armed struggle, in 2015, remains a legitimate act of resistance.”

Unionists immediately demanded that Mr Fennell be arrested, and last Monday the PSNI carried out heavy-handed raids at homes in Lurgan and Ardoyne, taking computers and mobile phones and seizing the 33-year-old in front of his young children. He was taken for questioning to Antrim interrogation centre and was subsequently charged with ‘encouraging terrorism’.

His arrest comes as his group is preparing for discussions surrounding the Protestant marching season and the attempts by the Orange Order to hold a sectarian parade through the nationalist Ardoyne and neighbouring areas of north Belfast. The march on July 12th, the anniversary of a Protestant victory in the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, has for many years been the most contentious of the marching season.

Mr Fennell’s supporters fear he has now been subjected to effective internment -- indefinite detention without trial. His arrest follows comments by PSNI Chief George Hamilton last week in which he boasted of his force’s ‘success’ in locking up the leadership of republican groups opposed to the powersharing administration at Stormont.

In his speech, Mr Fennell also accused the “unaccountable” PSNI and British military intelligence of deliberately seeking to target and intimidate republicans. He accused the British government of using miscarriage of justice victims Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton -- still imprisoned over a Continuity IRA attack in 2009 -- as ‘political hostages’.

Urging republicans to be more active, Mr Fennell quoted Sinn Fein deputy leader Maire Drumm, who was shot dead by loyalists in 1976. “It was Maire Drumm who stated: ‘It’s isn’t enough to shout up the IRA, the important thing is to join the IRA’,” he said.

“When you leave here today, ask yourself is it enough to support republicanism or could you be a more active republican. Are you willing to assist a movement that will bring us freedom?

“Let us cry out we will not accept British Rule, we will not accept native capitalist rule, we will not accept occupation or partition, we don’t accept your quisling assembly, armies or police force.”

On Tuesday, he was remanded without bail by a court in Craigavon. A crowd of men and women supporters, who had refused to stand as the judge entered the courtroom, erupted into applause and cheers as Fennell was taken out of the courtroom. Outside they unfurled a banner reading ‘End British Internment’. There were further protests in Belfast and in Dublin.

The Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association, which organised the Easter commemoration, said it viewed the raids and arrest of Mr Fennell as a “blatant example of the continuance of British political policing in the Six Counties”.

“Spurred on by Unionist and Loyalist hysteria and assisted by a pro-British media, the RUC/PSNI through its actions has attempted to silence a true and genuine Republican narrative by the use of force and intimidation. They will fail,” they said.

“The commemorative event on Easter Sunday in Lurgan was a fitting and honourable tribute to fallen IRA volunteers and no amount of British force and intimidation or Unionist/Loyalist interference should be allowed to shape how Republicans pay homage to those brave men and women who have given their lives in the cause of Irish freedom.”

The Republican Network for Unity denounced the decision to charge Fennell as an “abhorrent case of political policing” and a “blatant capitulation” to unionists.

“Dee should be immediately returned to his family and all spurious charges dropped. Republicans must come together to oppose this draconian attempt at silencing an opinion that doesn’t fall in favour of the State.”

The 1916 Societies said it condemned the “draconian, politically-motivated arrest and detention of our friend and comrade”.

“We consider the imprisonment of any political activist, for expressing what are ultimately political sentiments, among the most repressive measures ever introduced in Ireland by the British government, who despite best efforts to legitimise their ongoing presence in the Six Counties remain in occupation of a part of our country against the wishes of the people who live here.”

Neither Sinn Fein nor the SDLP have commented on the development.

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2015 Irish Republican News