Republicans at odds over festival link to PSNI
Republicans at odds over festival link to PSNI


A row has erupted over the attendance of the PSNI police at events at Feile an Phobail, the West Belfast festival.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA) have both denounced the use of the festival by the PSNI to mount a public relations exercise.

In recent years, the Sinn Fein-backed festival has sought to educate the west Belfast community about the political process through public events, and increasingly through the involvement of British Crown forces. Last year, PSNI Chief George Hamilton was invited to and attended a discussion panel event organised by the festival alongside Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.

Tensions between the PSNI and hardline republicans have been elevated recently after the force was seen to gloat on social networks over scores of arrests made in connection with republican parades earlier this year. One Facebook post mocked those arrested using a picture of several ‘Dissident Dan’ stickmen wearing balaclavas. In a sinister threat to the ‘dissident’ groups, the force also posted a picture of a bullet-riddled firing range target, which it called ‘Dan’.

At a large protest in front of Feile an Phobail Offices on Belfast’s Falls Road this week, IRPWA spokesperson Damhnaic Mac Eochaidh issued a hard-hitting statement in which he described the PSNI as a force of occupation and Sinn Fein as its political wing.

Citing statistics of stop-and-search activity in republican areas of the north, he described the PSNI as being “at war with working class Republican communities”, and accused Sinn Fein of seeking to normalise armed British policing in nationalist areas.

“They say they have achieved accountability via the policing board,” he said. “Since Sinn Fein and the SDLP’s participation in this sham, the chief constable has continued to disrupt and hinder any inquiries into any shoot to kill or collusion murders. He has stockpiled lethal plastic bullets. He has deployed the British army’s special reconnaissance regiment. The sectarian facade of 50/50 recruitment has ended.

“Objections were raised by both parties, but the reality is that they powerless to interfere in any of the chief constables decisions. They were effectively told to shut up and sit down. Who has put the manners on whom?

“While the forces of the state and her minions enjoy tea and biscuits, harassment, intimidation and threats continue. The malicious prosecutions and imprisonment go on. The abuse of activists children continues. The sectarian policing continues and the glorification of sectarian murdering Mi5 agents is unimpeded.

“The facilitation of loyalist sectarian displays, hate crimes and unwanted parades is permitted. The croppies are told to lie down.

“We will not lie down we will challenge the state through radical campaigns within communities. We will challenge those who attempt to normalise an armed militia within our communities. We will refuse to be intimidated be either of Sinn Fein’s armed wing, namely the PSNI or the armed criminal gang they have in the background masquerading as Republicans.”


Last week, leaflets were distributed by the IRPWA across west Belfast with claims that the festival is promoting the PSNI as part of a “pro-British PSNI endorsement strategy”, and listed what it said were its British-paid staff.

Festival organisers claimed the leaflets were designed to intimidate, but Mr Mac Eochaidh denied the “community notices” were threatening.

“Sinn Fein uses community organisations and private enterprise to do their work for them. When Republicans challenge or expose this they run to the compliant media claiming they have been threatened. Where are these threats? Can anyone give the text of any threat? NO, because the supposed threats don’t and never did exist,” he said.

Feile Director Kevin Gamble insisted the leaflets were a “veiled threat”.

“Out staff and board members see it an an attempt to intimidate and as something anti-community,” he said. “They all work and live in west Belfast and work on a daily basis to do positive work and to learn their names have been put through letter boxes by a nameless group.”

Sinn Fein West Belfast MP Paul Maskey and Gerry Adams both denounced the leaflet sand supported the festival organisers.

Mr Adams said the festival has a proud record “and it will be defended by the community”.

Those behind the protest were trying to “drag west Belfast” down, said Mr Maskey, adding: “We have seen this week an attack on community workers who are working tirelessly to make west Belfast a great place full of positivity and good news.”

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