Tensions are high in north Armagh following a three-day British Army and PSNI assault against the republican community in the area.
The operation began on Wednesday night when five armed response vehicles suddenly descended on the Kilwilkie estate. They were backed up by over half a dozen armoured land rovers who blocked both sides of the road which tried to prevent locals from accessing the area, where two local republican activists were detained. Masked police pointed assault rifles at residents who had come out of their homes to see what was going on.
The harassment of republicans continued for the next 48 hours with stop-and-search detentions and raids monitored by two British military aircraft, a spotter plane and a helicopter.
In a statement, Republican Sinn Fein said the actions “did not resemble the actions of a normal police force but instead resembled what can only be described as actions of a paramilitary style police force attempting to intimidate, harass and put fear into people.”
They said the “oppressive” PSNI had “no interest in bettering or building strong communities” and accused them of recruiting drug dealers as spies against the republican community.
“Residents have expressed their anger at these actions which left parents and children walking in the estate petrified at what they where witnessing,” they said. We would encourage everyone to be vigilant and report any incidents of harassment to local members of Republican Sinn Fein so it can be highlighted and challenged.”
There was also tensions in Clonard in west Belfast when the home of a prominent member of Saoradh was raided by PSNI.
Five jeeps full of armed and masked militiamen, accompanied by plainclothes police, descended on the area simply to ransack the family home of Fionnuala Parry, a former Saoradh chairperson. After a raid lasting a total of five and a half hours, personal items were taken.
Saoradh linked the raid to its political efforts in the area.
“This latest act of Crown Force aggression comes just two days after a successful leaflet drop and positive engagement with Clonard residents by Saoradh members,” Saoradh said.
“It is surely no coincidence that this raid took place so soon after, in the hope of demonising a well respected veteran Republican from the area. In fact the opposite has been the case, with local residents offering support to the family today.”
“Regardless of State Forces attacks, in either the Six or Twenty Six Counties, Saoradh continues to grow and develop with a clear revolutionary endeavour. Such attacks, supported by Crown Force cheerleaders in areas such as Clonard, are futile and will continue to be resisted.”
NEIL HEGARTY RELEASED
Meanwhile, Saoradh have welcomed the release of republican prisoner Neil Hegarty who had been interned since December, ostensibly on the basis that he had not complied with electronic tagging requirements.
It is understood the Parole Commissioners released him ahead of a legal appeal against an ambiguous court judgement last week which confirmed the internment.
In a statement, Saoradh said: “His release should in no way deflect from the vindictive and arbitrary way in which he was interned, or the cases of other ongoing similar examples.
“To our comrade Neil Hegarty we say welcome home to your family and community. Failte romhat abhaile, a chara.”