Several homes in Belfast were violently raided last weekend amid an increased PSNI presence, with heavily armed units deployed in the west and north of the city.
In the New Lodge and Ardoyne areas, a number of raids were carried out on the homes of republicans by members of the PSNI’s balaclava-wearing TSG (Tactical Support Group).
Two local men were taken from a car in Ardoyne by armed police and forced to the ground at gunpoint while their vehicle was searched. The PSNI’s helicopter hovered over the area for much of the weekend.
Another man said the PSNI “went nuts” went they found his car boot contained prisoner campaign leaflets and commemorative Easter lilies for the republican parade in Coalisland, County Tyrone on Easter Sunday.
“The PSNI guys totally lost it they went pure nuts, full of hatred, pushed me against the car,” he said. “Refused to allow any call to solicitor and refused to provide any details of the search but the locals saw it and recorded it.”
In what was described as a direct attack on the nationalist community of the Lower Falls, the PSNI raided the offices of the Divis Residents’ Support Team and three homes in the area on Saturday night. They arrested one community activist and were said to have traumatised infants and the elderly. Residents and activists held a protest on Sunday evening.
Eirigi activists who created a new Easter Rising mural at Lenadoon Avenue in west Belfast last week also reported that they were subjected to repeated harassment from heavily armed members of the PSNI.
Meanwhile, in Derry, a widow said she was left traumatised by a PSNI raid on her Bogside home Up to eight armed PSNI men turned her Cable Street home upside down. Maura Gallagher (pictured), who has a number of health issues, is the widow of well-known Derry republican, Jim Gallagher, who died six years ago.
She said she was ‘at a loss’ as to why the search was carried out at her home where she has lived for the past 30 years. She said: “The last time we were raided was well over ten years ago. There was no reason for this to happen. It was very intimidating and I felt very uncomfortable given the fact I was alone with eight armed male police officers.
“Neighbours who tried to get into the house were denied entry. My phone was taken off me so I could not phone anyone. My daughter, who arrived about an hour after the raid began, was eventually allowed it.
“They searched everywhere - drawers, cupboards, gardens - it was terrifying. I don’t understand why this has happened. I want to know why.”
Gary Donnelly, independent councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council, condemned the raid.
“For her to be alone with heavily armed police officers was vindictive and nasty. She has been through a terrible ordeal.”
“This type of policing is not unusual in this community. Local politicians, who are quick to condemn actions of republicans, should stand up and speak up for vulnerable people, such as Mrs Gallagher, who continue to suffer from political policing.”