Crown force oppression as marching tensions escalate
Crown force oppression as marching tensions escalate


An elderly nationalist collapsed as he was arrested by PSNI police after he tried to remove provocative banners in praise of an infamous loyalist paramilitary in Moygashel, County Tyrone, on Thursday.

The heavy-handed arrest of 64-year-old Frank McGirr for attempting to remove the illegal paramilitary banners was recorded in a shocking video which has been uploaded to social media websites. A gang of loyalists shouted foul abuse and sectarian slurs as he was dragged and shoved into a PSNI vehicle.

Mr McGirr, from nearby Stewartstown, set out to remove an illegal banner commemorating Wesley Somerville, one of those which perpetrated the Miami Showband massacre and other killings as part of the Glenanne gang. A second banner shows armed and masked members of the UVF.

But Mr McGirr was interrupted by a group of loyalists who then filmed him being taken away in handcuffs by members of the PSNI. McGirr, who uses a walking stick to get around, fell to his knees during his arrest, which PSNI later claimed was “to prevent a breach of the peace”.

Mr McGirr’s brother Colm was shot dead by the SAS near Coalisland, County Tyrone in 1983.

The PSNI this week confirmed that the UVF and UDA are still engaged in paramilitary attacks, despite both loyalist groups publicly renouncing violence just a few months ago. The banners have been the subject of several complaints to the PSNI, all of which went unheeded.

SDLP councillor Denise Mullen said the erection of the posters last week were hurtful to her family. Her father Denis was killed by the Glenanne Gang, which colluded with elements of the British Army, at his home near Moy, County Tyrone, in September 1975. Town authorities told Ms Mullen that while the banners are illegal “it is not considered expedient to pursue this case”.

“We have gone through planning, we have gone to the PSNI and they don’t want to know,” Ms Mullan said. “Who is going to take a stand here on this poster?”

Wesley Somerville is suspected of being part of the gang that shot Patrick Falls at a pub at Aughamullan, near Coalisland, in November 1974. His sons Brian and Aidan have described the banner as a “hate crime”.

“Once again we are subjected to this hate crime - banners glorifying mass murderers being put up in broad daylight in Moygashel main street with the use of a JCB front loader,” they said at the time.

Stephen Travers, who survived the Miami Showband massacre, said it was “a shocking, heavy-handed way” to treat Mr McGirr for taking action which the PSNI refused to do.

“I sent him my best regards via Brian Falls whose own father was murdered by their poster-boy’s gang,” he wrote on Twitter. “Their obscenities reminded me of the rabid cursing of Somerville’s Glenanne Gang as they slaughtered my bandmates.”


In other incidents linked to the Protestant marching season, there have attacks on republican memorials in Newry and South Armagh. A 1981 hunger strike memorial, situated at the Newry bypass, was vandalised. Similar attacks took place in Meigh and Ford’s Cross at Silverbridge, where a security camera recorded the incident.

Slamming those responsible local Saoradh spokesperson Stephen Murney said the sectarian bigots responsible “are only interested in stoking tension, particularly at this time of year.

“This memorial is in memory of the 1981 hunger strikers. Just weeks ago we gathered at the monument with some of those activists who originally erected it. Not only was this monument vandalised but the tributes we left on it have also been removed.”

Mr Murney continued “In the coming weeks Newry and Bessbrook are going to be subjected to dozens of unwanted sectarian parades, those parades like the desecration of this memorial, are only designed to create tension.”

In an extraordinary development in Silverbridge, however, the PSNI and British Army mounted a large-scale operation, apparently designed to remove the security camera.

Mr Murney condemned the Crown Force operation, in which the PSNI sealed off roads while British troops sneaked through fields.

“What was once one of the most heavily militarised parts of Westeren Europe once again bore witness to British Occupation troops openly operating in the South Armagh area,” he said.

“Republicans are under no illusions that the British Army are still operating in occupied Ireland. Thousands of British troops remain garrisoned in the six counties and can be deployed at will, as we seen on Tuesday evening.

“Whilst some within our communities try to portray that the British Army aren’t active here, this operation dispels that myth and reconfirms what we already know - British Occupation continues.

“Its not surprising that mainstream nationalist parties haven’t commented on the British Army’s presence during this operation. The silence from those who once treated the occupation forces with the hostility they deserve is telling.”

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