The British Army were involved in a dawn raid on the national headquarters of Saoradh in Derry as concerns increase over the increasing use of British military units in political oppression.
The PSNI police confirmed the 5am operation on Thursday morning in Derry city centre included a ‘military search’ unit of the British Army. The raid was followed the next day by separate British Army searches in and around a farmyard and green areas in the Creggan area.
Saoradh said the recent actions by British Crown forces follows on from weeks of surveillance operations which have included helicopters, drones, planes, and undercover members of MI5 and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment of the British Army.
For its part, the PSNI said it had removed 300 Halloween fireworks from the Saoradh offices. It claimed that the British Army had been required to deal with “explosives”, but later admitted that the store-bought fireworks they found had already been destroyed.
Saoradh said they had confiscated and destroyed the fireworks in response to community concerns over anti-social activity.
“Having patrolled the area continuously for a number of weeks, Saoradh activists seized a large quantity of fireworks, something that we have openly and publicly displayed,” the party said in a statement.
“These fireworks were then taken to Junior McDaid House where they were dismantled and soaked in water in preparation for other community representatives to safely dispose of them.”
The raid follows on from others on the homes of local Saoradh activists where family phones, computers and children’s school work have been taken seized. The party’s local chairman and vice chairman were also arrested before being released unconditionally in recent days.
Spokesperson Paddy Gallagher said it was “no coincidence” that the latest raid came as Saoradh were holding a high-profile launch of a policy document on Brexit. The party had also been preparing for a protest to mark the visit of 26 County Taoiseach to the headquarters of the loyalist marching body, the Apprentice Boys.
He added: “Over the course of the past week British Crown Forces have directed an onslaught of harassment towards Saoradh activists and this has culminated in a combined British Army and British Military Intelligence raid on our party headquarters, despite former Republicans telling us there is no British Army operating within the Six Counties anymore.
“It is clear that our party headquarters, our party members and our support base are being actively targeted in a futile attempt to stop the public availing of the free services we offer.”
He said British military personnel, British military intelligence and a Tactical Support Group had been openly operating in the Creggan estate.
“Despite the same old narrative spewed by former republicans and constitutional nationalists, British soldiers of occupation continue to remain active within the Six Counties and while they remain we will continue to oppose them.”
Independent Creggan councillor, Gary Donnelly, said there was anger in the community at the office raid.
“This reinforces for me the real nature of British policing in Ireland,” he said. “It’s not community policing. They don’t care about the community.”
Cllr Donnelly said it was alarming a political party had been targeted in this manner.
“They were backed up by British soldiers to raid the office of a political party to score cheap political points. There is anger.”
He pointed out there had been broad support for Saoradh’s seizure of the fireworks, which, he said, were a scourge in the Creggan area and elsewhere.
“It was my understanding that they [the PSNI] were told by people who would support policing about the fireworks problem but that they refused to act. But when people within the community removed the fireworks, which are a danger and a menace, then they poured all the resources of the State into an early morning raid whilst at the same time these people ignore crime within our community.”