Raids have taken place over four days across three jurisdictions in one of the largest actions in recent years by state forces against a legal political party.
Raids on the homes of Saoradh activists began on Tuesday in counties Derry, Armagh, Tyrone, Dublin, Cork, Kerry and Laois, where family phones, computers, games consoles and children’s school work were seized.
On Thursday, there were raids on the party’s offices in Derry, Belfast, Dungannon and Newry. A member of Saoradh in Scotland was also detained in front of his young children on Friday morning and “hauled off without explanation”, the party said.
Masked and armoured members of the PSNI’s TSGs (Tactical Support Groups) were involved in what the PSNI said was part of ‘Operation Arbacia’ against the New IRA.
Saoradh said its activists have been under intense surveillance in recent weeks following an escalation of stop-and-search activity in the north of Ireland. Several party members were detained, and at least one was strip-searched before being interrogated at Musgrave PSNI base in Belfast.
“The only crime those affected are guilty of is being Irish Republicans,” it said in a statement.
“Since the formation of Saoradh, both the British and 26 County administrations in Ireland have directed an onslaught of harassment towards party members and supporters.
“This has culminated in another combined Crown Forces and British Military Intelligence raid on our party headquarters and other offices.
“It is clear that our party offices, our party members and our support base are being actively targeted in a futile attempt to remove Saoradh from communities in which we are visibly active.”
Saoradh accused rival political parties in the North of being complicit in the raids.
“These Crown Forces activities, which follow encouragement most notably from Sinn Féin, the DUP and Alliance, will ultimately fail,” it said.
“What is also noteworthy is the unbroken silence from certain other organisations at the State-directed terror campaign against Saoradh members and their families.
“Certain republican organisations, those who purport to be left wing, trade unions and human rights organisations that are usually and rightly so vocal regarding state repression in far off lands are strangely silent when similar oppression is inflicted at home.”
Saoradh pointed out that it is a legal organisation which remains focussed on grassroots activism and community engagement. Efforts were being made “to bully the party out of existence”, but these actions were futile, it said.
“Since our formation in 2016 we have grown and we continue to grow. We have four public offices with more planned, each one open and accessible to the public. This harassment will not deter us.”
Shortly after the raids, they issued a notice to say that all offices were open as usual.
“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.
“The more Saoradh resists, the more pressure is applied. Likewise the more pressure that is applied, the more Saoradh will resist,” they said, quoting Terence MacSwiney: “It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most who will conquer”.