A banner erected on the external fence of the offices of a local newspaper in West Belfast is the latest indication of a deepening rift in republican areas over the status of the PSNI police.
The banner, ‘Andersonstown News – British State Media’, attacks the publication for carrying advertising for the PSNI.
The advertising campaign is part of a very high profile recruitment campaign launch by the PSNI. It was supported by senior members of Sinn Féin and has been accompanied by street-level advertising with posters along arterial routes in the city.
Lasair Dhearg, a socialist republican group formed in 2018, erected the banner. Spokesperson Pádraic MacCoitir said, “It is quite clear that a range of forces are being brought to bear to bring about a situation where the PSNI is further normalised in our communities. That is unforgivable.
“Our position is this, the PSNI is a heavily armed colonial police force. It did not replace the RUC but merely absorbed it, its personnel, their weaponry, resources, legislative powers, hierarchy and more importantly, its purpose. It is, and continues to be, the front line force for the continued occupation of our Six Counties.”
He also warned the PSNI Special Branch and everyday activities of the PSNI are under the control of British state intelligence, MI5.
Meanwhile, posters of Catholic PSNI man Peadar Heffron, who lost his leg in an attack by the ONH (Oglaigh na hEireann) in 2010, have also appeared. The posters ominously warn that anyone thinking of joining the PSNI could suffer similar injuries.
PSI Deputy Chief Mark Hamilton said those behind the posters were “cowards”.
“These posters can only be described as cruel and disgusting and have clearly been created by those who fear a fully representative police service,” he said.
On Tuesday, Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and her party colleague Gerry Kelly revealed claims by the PSNI that there was a plan to attack their homes. It was said that it was linked to the politicians’ attendance at a PSNI recruitment event in Belfast last week, which drew a furious response from Saoradh and the IRSP.
A further claim that there have also been threats to the staff at the Andersonstown News was directly challenged by Mr Mac Coitir.
“We are aware that certain staff members are not happy about the placement of the advertisements in the paper and may have already raised this issue with senior staff. For those members of staff to be further used by Sinn Féin for political capital is all the more tragic,” he said.
“We support those staff members and we hold senior members of Sinn Féin and their control of this paper accountable for providing the outlet as a platform.
“Republicans will continue to organise against the state, and any platform that it is given.”
Sinn Féin Assembly member Martina Anderson condemned those behind the anti-PSNI campaign, saying they were crass and offensive.
“Those responsible for erecting these posters have nothing to offer, they have no politics and no strategy to achieve anything,” the Foyle MLA said.
“It’s well past time they got off the backs of the community. This tactic is disgusting and disgraceful and comes from an unrepresentative groups with little support in the community.
“Everyone should have the right to choose their career path free from any fear or intimidation.”