A PSNI raid on the grieving home of a former IRA Volunteer a day after his funeral has sparked considerable anger in west Belfast.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) described the police raid, in which a number of items were seized from the home, as “shameless” and described the PSNI unit involved as “British thugs”.
Alex (Alec) Murphy’s funeral took place at St Peter’s Cathedral on Monday afternoon. He passed away at his home on the Falls Road last Thursday, 15 August.
Hundreds had gathered on the the Falls Road on Monday as a coffin draped in the Irish tricolour was proudly carried from his home. Around 15 men in the funeral parade wore IRA-style clothing bearing the symbol of the Provisional IRA’s D Company 2nd Battalion.
At the garden of remembrance, where members of the unit are honoured, the coffin was saluted by those wearing uniforms during a minute’s silence.
Henry Reid, a friend of the deceased, told the crowd that Mr Murphy remained unrepentant about his IRA past and became disillusioned after the armed campaign ended.
He said Alec was 12 when he heard “gun battles raging on the streets”, referring to the Falls Road curfew in July 1970. He was first arrested at the age of 15 and was one of the youngest internees in Long Kesh, and became a very active Volunteer.
Mr Reid said the Gibraltar ambush of three IRA Volunteers by the SAS in March 1988 had “set off a chain of events which would result in Alec again finding himself inside a prison cell.”
Mr Murphy received a 25-year sentence for a well-known IRA action in defence of a republican funeral in west Belfast. A dramatic, televised incursion on the funeral cortege by two plain-clothes British soldiers led to chaotic and violent scenes which ended with the two soldiers being shot dead.
Mr Murphy was released after 10 years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and immediately reported back to D Company, Mr Reid said: “But like many before him, it was clear that Alec’s type of service was no longer needed and he was sidelined and became disillusioned. He was cast aside and forgotten about by those now in high positions, what a shame.”
He said Murphy was unrepentant, adding that he “never tried to sanitise his involvement in the liberation struggle. And is on the record as saying if he had to do it all again, he would.”
A PSNI spy camera mounted to a vehicle recorded all those in attendance as the funeral cortege proceeded to St Peter’s Cathedral.
Earlier, a volley of shots had been fired over the open coffin in the traditional republican salute for an IRA Volunteer. A video of the tribute emerged on Monday.
While the Good Friday Agreement enshrines the right of everyone to commemorate their dead, Sinn Féin have called for an end to gun salutes. They said this week there was “no place for guns on our streets”.
The police have said such tributes are illegal. But the heavy-handed PSNI response at the Murphy home was strongly condemned.
“The West Belfast Community has been witness to many despicable acts of cowardice and insensitivity by Crown Forces over the years, regardless of whatever nom-de-guerre they use at any particular time. This is a new low,” said Saoradh in Belfast.
“This attack on Alex’s home and his family, still grieving from the loss of their loved one, has been carried out at the behest of hysterical unionists,” they added.
“These raids are also the direct outworkings of Sinn Féin’s repeated calls for an end to Republican Volunteers being afforded the final salute they deserve from comrades.
“The actions of Crown Forces today simply demonstrate that in death, as in life, they fear Alex Murphy and his revolutionary legacy. Saoradh stand in solidarity with the Murphy family and call on the community to further reject Sinn Féin attempts to normalise their own present-day comrades in the PSNI.”
The IRSP said that a number of local residents had contacted them “making clear their complete disgust at this action by the front line of Britain in Ireland, as well as disgust at those who continually prop up these thugs and attempt to integrate them into our communities.
“Our thoughts are with the Murphy family at this time.”