PSNI arrest leading republican at press conference


Saoradh has vowed to resist the criminalisation of republicans following a heavy-handed police arrest operation at offices shared by the small political party on Monday.

A number of Saoradh members were arrested at the press conference at Junior McDaid House on Chamberlain Street in the Bogside, which they had called to condemn PSNI operations against them, including previous arrests at the office.

To date, ten Saoradh members have been arrested and charged in connection with the Easter Commemoration parade in Derry, which featured a colour party in traditional military-style dress, with masks.

Trouble broke out during parade on April 2, and petrol bombs were hurled at police vehicles.

In his statement, spokesperson Joe Barr noted that Saoradh did not organise the commemoration. He said that the men arrested at Junior McDaid House on April 4 had been “charged with no evidence presented” and now “face restrictive and draconian conditions placed on them by the Crown Forces.

He said there had been a “provocative” approach taken by the PSNI ahead of and during the march in Creggan. He also said that, even though the previous year’s event had been officially notified, well marshalled and had passed off without any incident, the Crown Forces “chose to arrest 17 Republicans for attending what was a peaceful Easter Commemoration”.

Mr Barr said questions needed to be asked about the actions of the PSNI on the days leading up to the march and on the day itself. He noted that a local parish priest in Creggan had been warned by the PSNI ahead of the event that ‘if the parade wasn’t properly notified that the Crown Forces would prevent the parade and arrest those taking part’.

Mr Barr said that this “provocative” warning coupled with a PSNI attack two days earlier at the Republican Sinn Fein Easter commemoration in Lurgan which also resulted in arrests “only heightened tensions on the day in Creggan”.

He said: “The fact remains that the Crown Forces chose to ignore neutral reasonable voices which suggested they implement a sensitive and logical approach on the day, instead adopting a heavy and aggressive presence which increased heightened tensions.”

However, the PSNI were clearly not listening, and Saoradh’s press conference was only identified as an arrest opportunity. Prominent anti-Stormont republican Thomas Ashe Mellon (pictured, extreme left) and another activist were seized leaving the building and were subsequently brought before a court, accused of breaching previous draconian bail conditions barring them from the office.

“Once the press conference was finished, British stormtroopers swamped the surrounding area harassing Republicans and eventually lifting two of those who took part in the press conference and another well respected Republican,” Saoradh said.

They added: “Being a Republican is not a crime. Remembering Ireland’s patriot dead is not a crime. Irish Republicans will not be criminalised. The time is now, stand and be counted!”

In court, the PSNI described the Easter commemoration as an “unlawful parade” and said that Junior McDaid House was “a republican base for republican activists.”

Both men refused to recognise the court and remained seated when the charge was read to them.

However, District Judge Barney McElholm said bail conditions had to be “just and appropriate”, and said courts had to be aware of certain rights like freedom of speech and assembly. He re-released Mr Mellon on bail with his bail conditions reduced, to applause from supporters.

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