Graffiti war in Derry as Saoradh challenges censorship

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Saoradh has hit out at what it has described as unprecedented censorship and said the group and its members are being denied their civil rights.

In a statement, it also said it does not speak for the ‘New IRA’, which has accepted blame for the death of a journalist during a riot in Derry in April. Lyra McKee died when a gunshot aimed at a police vehicle struck her in the head.

“Following the tragic killing of Lyra McKee in Derry a fortnight ago, Saoradh offered its analysis of the events that led to the journalists death; we did so as a political party on behalf of our membership who share our analysis of the terrible events,” said the group.

“We did not and do not speak on behalf of any other organisation and contrary to a hostile media and state narrative we do not speak on behalf of the Irish Republican Army.

“Saoradh was roundly attacked in the media and by the political aristocracy for doing so. Quickly a public discourse was built up accusing Saoradh and its activists for Lyra’s death. Saoradh played no role in the events that led to the death of Lyra McKee.”

Social media accounts linked to Saoradh have been suspended by Facebook and Twitter, and its main website has been deactivated. Its offices in Derry have also been threatened with closure by their landlord.

In their statement, Saoradh said it is an “open and publicly accessible political party” which “offer an analysis on armed actions in the pursuit of Irish national liberation”.

“Saoradh does not engage in armed struggle,” it said. “Saoradh is not a proscribed organisation, we have as our means political agitation, mobilisation and grassroots activism.

“Since our formation in 2016 we have grown and we continue to grow, we have three public offices with more planned, each one open and accessible to the public.”

The party believes the censorship may have been orchestrated by the Dublin and London governments

The statement added: “Everyone has a fundamental right under international law and European human rights legislation to organise, hold and impart their political opinion and freedom of expression. However since the events in Derry at Easter a campaign to remove those rights from Saoradh has been launched.

“We have had our access to the internet and various online platforms curtailed in an effort to deny us those basic fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression.

“Saoradh place the blame for this orchestrated attack on everyone’s rights at the door of the British and Dublin Governments who ironically are using the death of a journalist to impose unprecedented levels of censorship. Presently no political party in western Europe is subjected to the level of censorship now imposed on Saoradh.

“Saoradh is currently pursuing a number of avenues to address these attacks on the freedom of speech. What the state does today on Irish republicans it will not hesitate to use tomorrow on the rest of society.

“You may not share our opinion, you may be diametrically opposed to it, as is your right, but you must understand that the denial of our rights today is the denial of your rights tomorrow.”

Tensions remain high in Derry, where the PSNI continue to seek informers to turn against the New IRA following the unconditional relase of two youths and a woman arrested last month. A graffiti ‘war’ is also ongoing, with signs appearing in the Bogside to threaten those who might inform, and repainting over signs claiming ‘the IRA is done’ and ‘defeated’.

Fresh pro-IRA graffiti has appeared at Central Drive in Creggan stating “IRA here to stay” and “informers will be executed.” Another message includes a picture of a rat, with the message “Informers will be shot - IRA, and another says “RUC Informers: They will forget about you, we won’t”.

Red paint which was smeared on the party’s offices in the form of red handprints has also been painted over. Kevin Campbell, Sinn Féin councillor and a Creggan resident, said the people of the area were infuriated by the signs.

“It’s an absolute insult to the memory of Lyra McKee, who was murdered by these people,” he said. “People see these gangs for what they are. They aren’t republicans; they are filth and people recognise that.”

In a separate development, a member of the ‘New IRA’ said it would continue its armed campaign.

“There is nothing we can say that will offer any comfort to her family and friends,” representatives of the group’s Army Council reportedly told the Sunday Times.

“The shots were fired in response to the arrival of Crown Forces. It wasn’t a planned attack. It was a spontaneous reaction to the arrival of heavily armed police. Her shooting was unintentional.

“There is nothing we can say that will not sound like a hollow apology.”

However the breakaway IRA said it accepted that it “cannot defeat the British militarily or even drive them from Ireland”, but that its actions would continue for propaganda purposes.

“They let the world know there is an ongoing conflict,” they said. “We will continue to fight for as long as they remain here”.

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