Republican Sinn Fein has said two members of its Ard Chomhairle leadership were among a group stopped and ambushed in Lurgan, County Armagh in a heavy-handed operation by British forces this week.
Six unmarked cars containing members of the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group (TSG), a PSNI helicopter and a British military spotter plane were involved in the incident.
“Our members were assaulted as they were forcibly removed from the car, dragged across the road and handcuffed by these agents of British rule who were heavily armed with sub machine guns,” they said.
It is the latest incident in a crackdown on the party in the Lurgan area. Twelve members of RSF from different parts of Ireland were arrested recently for taking part in a commemoration unveiling a monument in Kilwilkie dedicated to a local volunteer who died in action in 1916, Edward Costello. A ten year old child of one party member was also questioned and cautioned at the side of the road.
“This increased harassment of Republicans over the last few days has not been limited to North Armagh,” the party said.
“In Counties Derry and Tyrone in recent days increased surveillance, abuse of stop and search powers and verbal abuse has been directed towards members of Republican Sinn Fein.
“It is very clear that by this increased oppression the British State fears the core message of Revolutionary Republicanism, let it be noted, we will neither be purchased nor intimidated. Those who suffer most are the ordinary people who feel locked down and trapped in their own communities by this senseless and unjustified occupation. For peace with justice, it must end.”
STOP AND SEARCH PROTEST
In a separate development, a protest took place this week at Antrim Road Barracks in Belfast over the continuing use of stop and search powers by the PSNI.
It was organised by the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association in Belfast. They said freedom of information requests have shown that thousands of such searches have taken place, without any subsequent convictions -- an indicator thay hey are used only to harass.
One republican in Derry, Steven Ramsey, is currently bringing a legal action under human rights legislation after he was stopped and searched more than 150 times.
The IRPWA in Belfast described the stop and search legislation as a tool of harassment, intimidation and oppression.
“Many activists have endured hundreds of individual searches that are invasive, an attempt to humiliate and carried out to portray them as criminals rather than legitimate political activists,” they said.
“Often they are not only carried out in the presence of children, but children find themselves the victims of these invasive searches.”