Ardoyne residents’ spokesperson Dee Fennell was effectively interned by a judge at Craigavon court on Friday, confirming fears of republicans since his arrest two weeks ago.
Mr Fennell was refused bail in connection with incitement charges and ordered to be held indefinitely at Maghaberry jail. The republican activist was arrested last month in connection with a speech he delivered to a commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising in Lurgan, County Armagh, on Easter Sunday.
Mr Fennell is chairperson of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, which campaigns against anti-Catholic parades in the area. He also works on behalf of republican prisoners. His supporters said he intends to challenge the decision to deny him his liberty to the High Court.
Activists have pointed to the draconian nature of the legislation being used to erode the right of republicans to speak out against British rule. Peter Corrigan, representing Mr Fennell, also pointed out that he was a father with a very young family and had not been charged with membership of an illegal organisation.
The Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association offered its support to Mr Fennell’s family.
“Once again we have witnessed the full force of the British judicial system utilised against an Irish citizen,” IRPWA spokesperson Mandy Duffy said.
“Historically, British courts have been utilised to deny Irish people, and in particular Irish Republicans, their rights and their freedom. Today is no different, as we observed an all too willing so-called judicial system pander to the wishes of the British government and its security agencies.”
“Let us be clear. This is internment, regardless of how they might try to disguise it. Dee Fennell has been interned because he is a dedicated Irish Republican activist who dared to challenge the false narrative, carefully fostered by the British Government and its willing Irish natives, that exists in Ireland today.”
She called on all republicans, at home and abroad, to challenge this new aspect of Britain’s strategy in Ireland and organise to end the internment of Irish republicans.
Mr Fennell’s imprisonment was “an attempt to silence and suppress a genuine republican narrative,” she said. “This is nothing new to republicans. They will fail.”
Mr Fennell’s detention coincided with a bomb alert in the Ardoyne area on Friday. A local priest said he received a phone call indicating that a device intended to target a passing PSNI patrol had been abandoned. The alert caused traffic chaos after several main roads into the city were closed. A British army bomb squad team carried out an elaborate sweep of the area for most of the day before it was reported that a “significant” device had been recovered.
A smaller device at a Probation Service office in Derry on Monday also prompted a lengthy alert. According to the PSNI, one improvised home-made pipe bomb partially detonated, while a second failed to explode.
There was no claim of responsibility for either incident.