Dialogue appeal over tensions in republican areas
Dialogue appeal over tensions in republican areas


Support is growing for a public dialogue to address a rift in republican communities following an appeal for talks by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

The move comes after new tensions over traditional anti-internment bonfires. A PSNI police raid against one in Derry brought out strong local opposition to the force, and the bonfire ended up doubling in size.

Sinn Fein has blamed its republican opponents for being behind some of the bonfires, which traditionally mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment. It said the bonfires had seen “anti-social behaviour, street drinking and drug taking, criminal damage, street fights involving knives and hammers and car thefts”.

Tensions in republican areas of Belfast have also been heightened after organisers of a Sinn Fein-supported festival, Feile an Phobail, faced criticism for providing a platform to the PSNI police.

Sinn Fein has also been subjected to criticism by republican rivals recently over its efforts to remove some republican murals, its links to the Israeli government and its recent decison to take full parliamentary salaries, including the full British ministerial salaries available at Stormont.

In turn, Sinn Fein has accused its rivals of a campaign of intimidation. “Their only conflict seems to be with their own community,” said Sinn Fein Assembly member Pat Sheehan.

Dialogue efforts have been hampered by the low level of political organisation among the smaller republican ‘dissident’ groups. While some have organised as political parties, many have ceased to issue statements, while others believe the disruptive work of MI5 has undermined their organisations.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he was willing to meet representatives from the various groups. “If these groups had any integrity they would enter into dialogue with us,” he said.

One prominent republican responded to the call by agreeing to debate publicly with the Sinn Fein leader. Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA) spokesman Dee Fennell said he would “relish the opportunity” for a face-to-face meeting with Mr Adams.

“Mr Adams makes unsubstantiated allegations regarding threats of intimidation and criminality that he alleges are perpetrated by republicans,” he said.

“If Mr Adams has any evidence why has he not brought it to the PSNI when he continually asks ordinary citizens to do the same.”

The IRPWA spokesman said the Louth TD needed to “put up or shut up” and produce evidence of republican involvement in criminality.

“The real criminality that goes on within working class communities is the establishment of phantom community groups to supposedly benefit working class communities but in reality all the statistics demonstrate that in terms of social deprivation working class communities in Belfast continue to endure the highest rates of unemployment, deprivation and child poverty in Europe,” he said.

“I for one would relish the opportunity to discuss these issues and more in a public arena.”

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© 2016 Irish Republican News