PSNI reprisal raids after New IRA gun attack
PSNI reprisal raids after New IRA gun attack


A bitter conflict between the New IRA and British state forces has deepened after the armed group claimed responsibility for a targeted gun attack against a prominent and senior PSNI figure, John Caldwell.

A former member of the RUC, Caldwell had been involved in operations against republicans and their families and was aware that this had made him a high-profile target. Holding the rank of Detective Chief Inspector, he regularly appeared on television to defend PSNI actions.

Caldwell survived the shooting at a sports centre near Omagh in County Tyrone thanks to his bullet proof jacket, according to the BBC.

The attack was the most targeted ever carried out by the New IRA, which formed from other breakaway IRA groups in 2012. It came as a shock to those who had believed the organisation is in decline. It also drew a strong reaction from the political establishment, with all five main parties at Stormont uniting to condemn it as part of a coordinated response.

For their response, the PSNI intensified their harassment of republican communities in Tyrone, further exacerbating tensions there. Four Saoradh activists, ranging in age from 22 to 71, were arrested in violent and random raids in which family homes were wrecked and ransacked. The front door of one family home in Coalisland was smashed through with a chainsaw and battering ram.

All four activists have since been released unconditionally, while another four men remain in custody. Saoradh remained defiant this week in the face of the raids.

“Such reactionary acts of aggression from the Occupiers will fail to deter us from our Revolutionary path,” they said. “Saoradh extend our full support to the Republican activists and their families at this difficult time.”

They added: “The sole purpose of these targeted raids, violent attacks and detention of loved ones was simply to disrupt family life and cause tension, however the actions of the occupier have only reaffirmed the strong traditionally held Republican beliefs of these families.”

A video of the arrest of one 22-year-old in Coalisland, since released, showed members of the local community rallying in support and applauding in solidarity as he was taken in.

Saoradh said the young man had been arrested in an attack on a well-known and respected republican family who have to endure “torment and tragic pain” over the last couple of years.

“Their father has been interned, and tragically, the family has had to suffer the passing of close family members. At every turn, the state sought to turn the screw harder by denying compassionate bail, then allowing the most minimal of compassionate bail. In essence, the state outright ripped apart the human right to compassionate bail.

“And so this young Republican, along with a 14-year-old relative, was taken at gunpoint from the family home, the family door cut with a chainsaw and rammed in, being felon-set on by those who class themselves as journalists.

“His crime is that he comes from a Republican family and, like his comrades arrested with him, he is a Saoradh member and IRPWA activist. That is not a crime, never mind being a reason to attack a family home in the dark of night. It’s not a reason to terrify a 14-year-old child.”

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has previously been accused of personalising the conflict when he openly targeted republican families, including his notorious declaration in 2019 that “we will have your kids”.

In a statement posted on a wall in Derry on Monday, the New IRA warned ominously of other direct attacks against members of the British Crown Forces. It said:

“The Irish Republican Army claim responsibility for the military operation targeting senior Crown Force member, John Caldwell.

“An active service unit of the IRA were in position to target the enemy within our chosen kill zone with other armed volunteers giving cover.

“All volunteers returned to base safely.

“Irish Republican Army intelligence are now in possession of security information regarding the out of bounds movement of Crown Force personnel.

“We would say this, you will still have to try and live a normal family life day-to-day, one of those days the IRA will be waiting.”

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