The PSNI have taken to using saws and battering rams in raids on the homes of republican activists in Derry following appeals by Sinn Fein for “tangible action” against armed groups in the city.
The front doors of two Saoradh members were wrecked and the main offices of the nascent political party were subjected to a lightning PSNI raid. The incidents have sharply escalated a war of words between Saoradh and Sinn Fein, with Saoradh accusing local Sinn Fein representatives of directing “political oppression”.
Raymond McCartney, a senior Sinn Fein figure in Derry, has urged the PSNI to take “tangible action on the ground” against those he described as “paramilitaries” and involved in crime. It was understood he was referring to the ‘new IRA’, an armed group which has links to Saoradh but which has been largely dormant in recent months.
Tensions have been increasing in the city which lies within five miles of the border and which is certain to undergo some level of remilitarisation following Brexit, making it a potential site for renewed conflict. McCartney, a former Assembly member spoke out following a meeting in Derry with the Independent Reporting Commission, an MI5-linked body tasked with tackling breakaway IRA and loyalist groups.
Saoradh representative Paddy Gallagher said his party and its Derry HQ was now bearing the direct brunt of a campaign of repression.
“For the second time in a matter of weeks Junior McDaid House has been targeted in heavy handed raids by Crown Forces after calls by [Sinn Fein councillor] Kevin Campbell and Raymond McCartney,” he said.
“The blame for raids on the national office of Saoradh and subsequent raids of activists homes lay solely with those in Sinn Fein who call for them to happen.”
Saoradh posted a video on Facebook of the PSNI sawing through the door of a party member who they said was on holidays. In another incident, a Saoradh member was seized by a PSNI ‘rapid entry’ unit after they wrecked his front door using a battering ram.
“As is normal practice for British Crown Forces, the republican was dragged from his home, trailed to Musgrave interrogation unit, harassed for a number of hours and subsequently released without charge,” Saoradh said. “As a result of this intimidation the republican had to be temporarily released from the interrogation unit to seek medical assistance before being returned.”
They said that a family member of the victim who attemped to contact Kevin Campbell about the incident on Facebook had been ‘blocked’ by the Sinn Fein councillor.
Paddy Gallagher protested the use of new “rapid entry” warrants which the PSNI have said are required to “preserve evidence”.
“This is despite the fact that activists are being seized in relation to incidents that has happened almost two years ago and the so called evidence the Crown Forces take are children’s laptops and mobile phones,” Mr Gallagher said.
“A policy of targeting the family members of republican activists is under way. The criminalisation policy put in place by former republicans cannot and will not go unchallenged.”
On Friday, Raymond McCartney said he condemned the raids and warned that local children have been “traumatised”.
“Policing with the community demands good leadership and proper judgement,” he said.
“In recent house searches and arrest operations, the ramrodding and cutting through front doors runs counter to this. People, and in particular children, are left traumatised.
“Leadership and judgement were lacking on these occasions. Questions arise as to in whose interest does this style of policing suit.”