Republican Sinn Fein has denounced an arrest operation in the Armagh and Tyrone areas which saw several members of the party seized over a 24 hour period. In one instance a member was taken ill in the process and needed an ambulance to take him to hospital.
At least two of the men were arrested in relation to a colour party at an “unnotified” Easter Rising commemoration in Lurgan, County Armagh last year, an offence described by Irish state-run TV as “terrorist related”. Others targeted for arrest included one RSF member involved in organising a nationalist bonfire in the area. Some others received letters urging them to hand themselves in.
One man taken in by the PSNI in connection with the Easter commemoration said he had been approached to become an informer in the process.
In a statement posted on Facebook, he said he had been “followed by two car loads [of PSNI] to the shopping center where I was going with my family and four-year-old child.”
“They left a child in tears and crying after his dad. The British RUC then left my partner and child stranded with no where to go and taking me to custody.
“Obviously, I was released a number of hours later, but before being released I was led to a room where three men where standing. Before I entered I recognised two of them who have before approached me in attempts to get me to work for them.
“I quickly made it clear I was leaving and walked out towards the exit of the station, where they still followed me out and walked behind me. They only turned and walk back to the station when i started making a scene and drawing peoples’ attention to them.
“These are dirty tactics used by RUC/PSNI in attempts to intimidate republicans and their families and should not be supported by anybody. Resist British rule in occupied Ireland!”
GARC ON TRIAL
Meanwhile, five representatives of the Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective (GARC) have been appearing in court charged with taking part in a public procession on September 30 last year, due to the route taken.
Parades Commission chiefs had granted permission for GARC to hold a counter demonstration against a sectarian parade the night before - with conditions limiting it to the one area of their neighbourhood. Instead, the protest took a different route around the Ardoyne district before reaching the agreed dispersal point.
The judge was told they changed the direction of their authorised march to ensure the safety of up to 600 demonstrators over reports that menacing crowds of youths were gathering.
GARC representative Damien Fennell said: “We had two choices - either march young families into a potential conflict situation, or attempt to defuse the situation by taking them along a different route.”
Mr Fennell pointed to police footage of the march which showed participants remained silent and stayed well away from any flashpoints. He described the event as a legal opportunity for residents to show their opposition to a deal “imposed on the community by Sinn Fein and the Orange Order”.
Stressing there had no been prior intention to deviate from the Parades Commission determination, he described how a decision was taken to change route in a bid to prevent trouble. Judgment was reserved following the hearing.