A man from a well-known republican family died at the hands of the PSNI on Thursday amid a new wave of police harassment and abuses in Belfast.
Gerard ‘Mako’ McMahon, from the nationalist Short Strand area of east Belfast, died after he was set upon and sprayed with a controversial riot-control chemical by police on Great Victoria Street in the city at about 5am on Thursday.
The PSNI initially claimed they had responded to reports of a man behaving ‘violently’ on the street, and that he suffered serious physical injuries while ‘being restrained’ outside Belfast’s Grand Opera House, an area popular with tourists. The Police Ombudsman’s office later confirmed that the debilitating CS gas had been used against Mr McMahon. Security camera footage was removed from the area where the incident took place, and the PSNI have refused to comment further.
The victim’s family have been deeply shocked by the sudden death. His mother and father, Gerard and Ella, called for “a thorough and swift investigation” into the circumstances. ‘Mako’, who is also being grieved by the Fitzsimons family, worked as a DJ and was well known across Belfast. Hundreds of tributes have been placed on his social media page, along with appeals for the truth.
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein Assembly member called for a thorough investigation “so that his grieving family get the full facts as quickly as possible”.
The incident which led to his death occurred amid a dramatic increase in the harassment of nationalists and republicans by the PSNI. One republican activist, Conall Corbett, has filmed several ‘stop and search’ detentions by the PSNI on the streets of Belfast in recent days, including a number directed against himself.
The Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Associations said Mr McMahon had “clearly been in a vulnerable state” when he was sprayed with CS gas by the PSNI. They also held an anti-political policing picket at Woodbourne British police Barracks on Thursday evening to to highlight what it said was the ongoing draconian use of stop-and-search and the sudden increase in its use.
“This deliberate abuse of their own laws and legislation is directed by MI5 through its proxies such as Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris,” they said.
“The deliberate ignoring of such abuse, as recent videos have shown, by usually vocal politicians of all hues, will be viewed by those instigating as acquiescing in its intent.”