Victims speak out over Creggan invasion

saoraconf.jpg

 

Disturbances have continued in Derry after intensely violent PSNI raids in the Ballymagowan area of Creggan last weekend. A press conference organised at Junior McDaid House on Thursday saw some of those affected issue statements give emotional accounts of their horrific experiences at the hands of the PSNI.

 

Today we expose the brutal reality of so called “community policing”. This is what has been meted out to the local population of working class Republican communities as they bare the brunt of occupation style policing.

Saoradh have been forwarded a number of images which show the extent of the injuries inflicted upon the 15 year old son of the family recently targeted in a 12 hour long siege of their home by British Crown Forces in recent days.

Home invasions, raids, stop & searches are all common occurrences for Republicans, however in recent weeks there has been a notable increase in the targeting of family members. This is clearly a policy by British Crown Forces as they attempt to break Republicanism.

While British Crown Forces and their MI5 cohorts invaded the Ballymagowan area of Creggan they occupied a family home, detained a father and physically assaulted residents and Republican activists.

Furthermore, in what can only be described as planned and calculated attack, the 15 year old son of the Republican activist whose home was being invaded, was viscously beaten by thugs in British uniform. The teenager, who suffers with autism, was singled out and attacked by Crown Force personnel for the second time in a number of months having been wrongly detained and beaten during a previous invasion of his family home.

These actions coupled with the invasion of the teenager’s home and the detainment of his father were carried out with glee by Crown Forces who were delighted in telling those present that they were there to “keep filth off the streets”.

The sole purpose of this targeted raid, violent attacks and internment of a loved one was to disrupt family life and cause tension, however the actions of the occupier have only reaffirmed the strong traditionally held Republican beliefs of this family.

The reality is, this is British policing in occupied Ireland today. There is no difference between today as opposed to when Sinn Féin used to stand with the oppressed. Now they play optics, cry crocodile tears and champion our British oppressor.

In response to these actions, Sinn Féin’s elected representatives often claim they will “raise concerns directly with the PSNI”, however these cosy meetings are nothing more than a talking shop with no real outcome.

This mediocre and now common rhetoric is churned out every time Crown Forces target the homes of Republican activists, however nothing has changed. Crown Forces continue with their vindictive and punitive actions as they continue to physically attack residents and members of working class communities.

Saoradh and the wider Republican family will not sit idly by, we will take action like we have in the past as we protest and stand in solidarity against the targeting of families of Republican activists; against a clear policy of child abuse by Crown Forces; and against the invasion of Republican homes across working class areas of Derry.

 

Below is the text of Cliodhna McCool’s statement representing the McCool family.

 

On Thursday March 18th just before 6am our family home was invaded by dozens of armed, masked and aggressive members of the British Crown Forces.

This is not an uncommon occurrence for our family, however that doesn’t make it any less traumatising, invasive or wrong each time that it happens.

As a family who hold strong traditional Republican views we have become accustomed to many forms of harassment and intimidation, in fact we have almost come to expect it. However, in recent months the occupiers have escalated this harassment by constantly following every member of our family during almost every aspect of our lives. Something that is somewhat creepy and very distressing is the fact they seem to have prior knowledge of where we are going to or coming from and will be there to mete out their harassment.

These forms of harassment are not exclusive to our family but have become increasingly violent of late. In the last year alone we have been attacked resulting in my mother, father and younger brother being hospitalised and we have received death threats from British soldiers dressed in Crown Force uniforms. These incidents, pale in significance when compared to Thursday’s attack on our home and family.

Once my father was removed from the house, what can only be described as a nightmare for our family began. My family were shouted at aggressively, verbally abused and threatened with arrest by masked gunmen. My younger brother Fionn, who is autistic, was again manhandled and removed from his bed, searched and evicted from his home; as was my mother and other brother. While they were forced to leave our house they were refused access to a toilet, food or water. My mother was also denied her medication. My entire family was searched in an intimate manner of which I prefer not to go into detail; I will let you use your own imagination.

The actions of the Crown Forces that morning were seemingly smug and aggressive. They removed our door completely off the hinges and ransacked each and every room once they had placed my father in handcuffs and forensic clothing. These actions were carried out with glee by Crown Forces who delighted in telling us they were there to wreck the house and destroy our lives.

As many now know, our home was sealed off and searched for over 12 hours. In addition to this, residents of Ballymagowan and those who turned out to support our family were attacked by baton wielding thugs.

Almost 10 hours after the initial invading of our home we received another daunting phone call, my younger brother Fionn was again assaulted by these baying animals. The resulting injuries can be seen on the images in front of us. This was the second such incident where our son and brother was singled out and viciously beaten.

This is just a small insight into the behaviour of the Crown Forces and a glimpse into the life of a family hounded by Crown Forces and their cheerleaders.

No matter what you think of our family’s politics, no family should ever be treated like this. If it was wrong in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s then it’s wrong now. Our family have feelings too and refuse to be treated as lesser human beings because politicians say it’s acceptable. It’s not!

 

The following text is of Pete Cavanagh, a Saoradh Doire member.

 

While on my way to Ballymagowan I seen Creggan had been saturated by British Crown forces. When I arrived in Ballymagowan shortly after 6am on Thursday morning I counted 17 armoured land rovers and countless armed militiamen outside the McCool family home.

From the outset I knew this wasn’t like other raids.

As I arrived I heard screaming and shouting coming from the McCool household, from the street I watched young Fionn McCool being searched in a bedroom by armed men in boiler suits. This is same autistic child who received injuries at the hands of the same thugs during a previous attack on his home. I watched Fionn and his brother Gervaise being forcibly manhandled by Crown forces as they stole the family cars.

Countless armed Crown Force personnel, some with rifles were placed in and around the house.

Neighbours and residents were already in their front gardens to see what was going on.

At this time the area was not sealed off. With a small crowd now gathered, Crown forces attempted to cordon off the street. Not happy with causing maximum disruption to the McCool family, they then wanted to effectively make that side of Ballymagowan Park a ‘no go’ area for the public, causing more hassle for all the residents who live there.

Crown Force personnel moved the more heavily armed militiamen closer to the residents and people gathered in support of the McCools. It was here they began to trade in sectarian and snide remarks, calling Creggan and the people in it ‘dirty and unwashed.’ Some of them began mentioning personal details of individuals gathered there. Some raised and showed off their weapons in an attempt to intimidate us. Many of the cops gathered there were very shaky and nervous.

After trying to push us further down the street, these thugs in uniform drew their batons and launched what can only be described as a frenzied attack. It is here I was beat between two cars with my head busted open by a British baton. So reckless was this attack that these thugs in uniform were fighting with each other to get at me. They were climbing over each other to get at me again as I lay on the ground busted open. The cop who hit me called me a “Fenian prick.”

A cop said to me after that everything was caught on their bodycams. However no footage of me being attacked was submitted to the British Court.

When I was being dragged away there was pandemonium in the street. Crown Forces were hitting anyone in sight with batons, some people got punched in the face.

When I was in the back of an armoured car I seen and heard the inspector who attacked me tell his superior that I had fell and busted by head. But when asked at the hospital the doctor said there is no way I could have sustained this injury by either falling backwards or forwards given the severity and location of the strike. I received 8 stitches.

When I was still in the cop car I watched the cops throw a female resident to the ground and attack her, I watched them corner a youth between two cars and then go to attack her.

British Crown Forces kept myself and another Saoradh member detained in Strabane and Strand Road barracks for over 30 hours. We should have been released the morning of the raid, however they held out for a more favourable and like-minded judge.

The bail conditions imposed upon myself and my comrade are draconian and restrictive, deliberately designed to stifle and hinder our legitimate political activism.

We didn’t bring 20 armoured land rovers into Creggan equipped and intent on confrontation. We didn’t wreck a family’s home and attack the people of Ballymagowan or insult the people of Creggan.

These draconian bail conditions will go no way in stifling our Republican and Socialist activism. This attack by the forces of British occupation has only strengthened our resolve.

 

The text below is of lifelong Creggan resident, Clare Friel.

 

As a lifelong Creggan resident I have witnessed many incursions of our community over the years.

Throughout the decades, many British governments focused their attention on Creggan and its people.

The actions and behaviour of the PSNI witnessed on Thursday 18th March were reminiscent of our past. These attacks, as described by our neighbours and community activists, were supposed to be of a bygone era, again that is not the case.

What happened to the McCool family, residents of Ballymagowan and the wider Creggan community along with political and community activists has only served in raising further tensions between our young people, residents and the police.

While those of us who live and work in our community attempt to make it a better, safer place through the use of resident groups, paid elected representatives should be reminded that they’re job is to represent all those people within our community, not to side with those attacking Creggan.

As I have mentioned, I’ve been born and bred in Creggan and have lived here my entire life. My daughters and granddaughter also live in Creggan. I have witnessed the entire profiling of this community by the PSNI more and more in recent years as they attempt to normalise their behaviour and actions but it hasn’t and won’t work.

Our young people are sick and tired of being targeted by police; they are sick and tired of watching community and political activist being stopped and searched; they are sick and tired of seeing their school friends being stopped and searched while attempting to get an education; they are sick and tired of the fake community policing being rolled out in Creggan as the PSNI cycle around streets with armoured jeeps on every entry and exit of the estate. This behaviour can’t continue without our youth saying enough is enough! Is it any wonder they react!

This time it was the McCool family who faced the actions of the PSNI, before them it was other residents of Creggan and so forth. The Creggan community is a proud, strong community who will always support our neighbours just like we have done in the past.

 

Saoradh National Executive Member, Stephen Murney, gave the Saoradh analysis of the invasion of Creggan and its aftermath. Below is the text of that statement.

 

You have heard from the McCool family, their neighbour and friend Claire Friel and Saoradh activist Pete Cavanagh who was among those attacked and hospitalised.

In the past week we have witnessed Kieran McCool, a loving husband, father and grandfather ripped from his family and community. This is internment in 2021 no matter what way it’s dressed up.

Whilst this raid was taking place two women were forced to the ground outside and knelt on by several members of the British Forces. This bares all the hallmarks of George Floyd and the recent disturbing images in England. Are all members of the British Forces trained in how to attack women?

This political raid and the baton attack on Creggan residents and young people was the sole factor in the trouble that followed.

In the aftermath of this invasion and attack on the Creggan community utterances were spouted by a number of groups, both political and community, whilst some elected representatives remain ever silent.

Sinn Fein once again emerged from under their rocks with a statement full of false promises. This is a recurring theme. Each time the Crown Forces raid and attack the Republican community in Derry, Sinn Fein pledge to hold those forces to account.

The reality is that after dozens of raids and numerous acts of brutality they have never once held them to account but rather sit and have cosy tea and biscuits meetings with the oppressing forces who they continue to give their unwavering support to.

We also have elected representatives who stay silent and say nothing about such attacks on those they claim to represent, this is despite these actions literally taking place on their doorstep. You are complicit in your silence and you are as much part of the system no matter how much you try not to be.

One such politician slithered his way to the McCool family home in the days after the attack. Like the rest of the politicians from Creggan his absence was notable on the day - they were simply nowhere to be seen.

The Creggan Neighbourhood Partnership and Creggan enterprise also issued a statement, like Sinn Fein they failed to even bring themselves to mention the house raid and treatment of the McCool family. They made reference to church leaders who have consistently stayed silent for years as the people of Creggan continue to suffer at the hands of British occupation. These same church leaders regularly speak out against Republican volunteers yet can’t find their tongues when the largest armed group crack Republican skulls and smash doors of the hinges.

All of those in perceived positions of power who have either issued self serving statements, or remained mute, have conveniently ignored Kieran McCool, his family and the residents of Creggan.

Not one of the statements that were issued even mentioned the aggressive house raid and subsequent Internment of Kieran McCool.

On the other hand the Republican position is clear as day. These raids and attacks are the outworking of British occupation, they were wrong and unjust in previous years and decades and are wrong today. The Crown forces responsible are not welcome or wanted in Creggan, or indeed in any Republican community in the six counties.

They should be opposed and resisted at every opportunity and those who provide them with political fig-leaf cover should be exposed at every turn. Saoradh will not be found wanting when it comes to standing up against British occupation and we won’t be silent when it comes to challenging it.

We will stand firmly with those on the receiving end as they bear the brunt of the partitionist forces.

Urgent Appeal

The current pandemic is creating financial difficulties for many news organisations, and we are not immune. We are low on resources and need your extra support now to help us through this difficult period.

Please help by making a contribution. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2021 Irish Republican News