‘Guilty’ of remembering fallen INLA Volunteers

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In what is said to be is the first case of its kind, a Belfast court has found a member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party guilty of carrying an Irish National Liberation Army flag during an Easter Sunday commemoration.

Lawyers for Sean Carlin are to appeal the decision, which the IRSP said could open the door to criminalising individuals for commemorating Ireland’s patriot dead.

Easter commemoration parades have occurred all across Ireland for over one hundred years, paying tribute to all men and women who have died in the cause of Irish liberation on the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Every Easter in Belfast, tens of thousands of Irish republicans and socialists, from all organisations and none, march on Belfast’s Falls Road towards Milltown cemetery to attend the graves of Ireland’s patriot dead, many carrying the flags of military organisations who took part in the various campaigns against British rule in Ireland over the years.

In recent years, however, members of some republican parties have found themselves coming under a wave of British-backed house raids, arrests and politically motivated charges in an attempt to force them into supporting the mainstream political process in the north of Ireland.

In 2017 during a traditional Easter Sunday commemoration on the Falls Road, a historical replica flag based on a flag used by the Belfast Brigade of the INLA during the 1980s was formally unfurled by IRSP member Sean Carlin who then carried it during the procession towards Milltown cemetery.

The parade in question had been themed to honour in particular, members of the Belfast Brigade INLA who had lost their lives when the IRSP came under attack from loyalists 30 years earlier in 1987.

It was revealed in court that undercover British police officers had targeted Sean Carlin and earmarked him for arrest. He was later arrested from his home.

In court he was charged under the ‘Terrorism Act 2000’ and in particular with “carrying an article, in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation”.

Despite defence barristers arguing that the flag was merely being carried as a commemorative gesture, the Judge took a highly literal interpretation of the legislation and found him guilty. Mr Carlin now faces six months in prison for honouring Ireland’s patriot dead on a recognised day of national commemoration.

His conviction, if upheld at appeal, risks making participation in a commemorative parade on Easter Sunday a potential criminal offence, as all such processions traditionally carry flags which either bear the title of or pay respects to organisations which Britain hold to be ‘proscribed’ or illegal, organisations: such as Oglaigh na hEireann , Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Eireann and the various companies and battalions that existed within.

The IRSP said it was supporting Sean Carlin’s appeal against what it said was “a blatantly targeted oppression of a Republican Socialist and the potential all out criminalisation of Ireland’s right to commemorate its patriot dead”.

It has asked for the support of all commemorative organisations in Ireland “and the support of all comrades in raising awareness of an example of gross political oppression and cultural censorship”.

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