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A Busy Day in Newry

19/11/12

Saturday [November 17] was, indeed, a busy day in Newry as éirígí held two separate events in the city.

As party members and supporters busied themselves by participating in legitimate political activities on what proved to be a bitterly cold day, the Six-County police force responded by mobilising huge numbers of personnel and drafting in a helicopter for good measure.

PSNI protest

Several dozen éirígí members and supporters gathered early on Saturday afternoon for an hour-long picket outside Ardmore PSNI barracks on the outskirts of the city to protest against ongoing harassment.

A heavy PSNI presence conducted a major surveillance operation against those taking part in the protest.

However, the PSNI presence failed to deter many of the passing motorists from showing support for the protestors. As car after car sounded their horns in solidarity with the protest, it was clear that this very audible public support has having a morale-sapping impact on the PSNI.

PSNI protest

Following this very successful protest, republicans then made their way across Newry to meet up at John Mitchel Place in the city centre.

There, they began to gather for a short wreath-laying ceremony in honour of Theobald Wolfe Tone and those from the Newry area who gave their lives in the 1798 rebellion.

The PSNI then mounted a second major operation. As a helicopter hovered overhead, armoured land-rovers carrying scores of boiler-suited members of the Tactical Support Group descended on the area, causing major traffic congestion and disruption.

The PSNI also proceeded to block off several streets. Bizarrely, one land-rover, blocking access along Hill Street, displayed a sign proclaiming the gathering to be an “unnotified parade”.

Clearly, PSNI intelligence, as often is the case, proved to be completely wide of the mark as no parade was ever planned.

Wolfe Tone commemoration

Ignoring the Keystone Cops-like farce going on around them, members of the public joined with éirígí members in assembling beside a plaque dedicated to the memory of two United Irishmen, George Cochran and Thomas Lowans, both of whom were executed by the British for involvement in the ’98 Rising.

The event was chaired by éirígí's Stephen Murney who afterwards commented, “éirígí had organised this commemorative gathering to remember and pay tribute to those who gave their lives in 1798. The response by the PSNI was nothing but a farcical show of strength. Participants at the ceremony had gathered on the footpath and in a number of adjacent car-parking spaces and traffic had been able to flow past freely until the PSNI turned up.

“Members of a flute band were present but they merely played a few tunes beside the plaque. At no time, did they or anyone else intend to march anywhere. The only people who caused disruption in Newry on Saturday were the PSNI who blocked roads and diverted traffic. Quite a few PSNI members and at least one fairly senior PSNI officer were left looking rather sheepish and foolish at the end of the day.”

éirígí activist and local community worker Anthony Coyle laid at a wreath at the Cochran/Lowans plaque on behalf of the party.

An oration was then delivered by Belfast republican Pádraic Mac Coitir.

In his address, Mac Coitir said, “When I was asked to speak at this event, I felt honoured and privileged. Newry is one of many parts of the country in which men and women took on the might of the British government and its brutal army in a rebellion that was to fail but which inspired generations of others to take up arms against the same British government that still occupies part of our country.

“Tone and his comrades will continue to inspire us as we continue the struggle for an Ireland that is free from British interference, free from sectarianism and freedom from an economic stranglehold that is being imposed upon us.

Wolfe Tone commemoration

“We will continue that struggle with determination and overthrow an unjust system that has been imposed upon us by unscrupulous people. We will continue to expose the contradictions within capitalism and resist the austerity measures which those in Stormont and Leinster House are imposing on the working class.”

Referring to the current attacks on the Gaza Strip, he said, “We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Palestine, who at this very moment are being attacked by the Zionist regime.”

Mac Coitir concluded by stating, “Just like the United Irishmen, our mandate comes from the fact that Britain has no right and never will have the right to interfere in Irish affairs. When we leave here today we will continue that noble struggle which Wolfe Tone and many others were involved in.”

The event ended with the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann and all those attending the wreath-laying ceremony dispersed without incident.

The PSNI, meanwhile, were left scratching their heads and wondering how they would justify spending tens of thousands of pounds on a completely overt display of political policing which had been witnessed by hundreds of local people and Saturday afternoon shoppers in Newry.

 

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