Within one week, and within one mile of the resting place of many of our republican dead, the forces they opposed in life have attempted to deter their commemoration in death.
On Saturday 31st March, four éirígí activists erecting a banner at the junction of the Falls and Whiterock Roads, encouraging people to remember our patriot dead, noticed that they were being surveilled by the PSNI.
Following a number of sightings, two armoured personnel carriers screeched to a stop beside the activists and out decamped a number of heavily armed paramilitary police operatives, who proceeded to stop, search and detain them, as well as members of the public who had stopped to express their concern for those being held against their will.
A mere week later, on Saturday 7th April, nine éirígí activists and supporters were distributing Easter commemoration leaflets, in the Turf Lodge area of the city. After a short period they too noticed that they were being surveilled by an unmarked PSNI car, which prompted a resident to remark that it was “ridiculous that you can’t even walk your own streets”.
Soon, this car was joined by a marked car and an armoured jeep. The posse now fully formed, out jumped upwards of ten PSNI personnel, a number of whom were armed with assault rifles. The lead officer then proceeded to barge into and push éirígí’s Upper Falls representative, Pádraic Mac Coitir.
Upon being challenged, and having rather clumsily fumbled their way through their own legislation, the PSNI proceeded to detain, question and, in some cases, search the nine ‘leafleteers’, much to the disgust of local residents.
Commenting on both incidents, Pádraic Mac Coitir condemned the ongoing harassment and commended the fortitude of the activists.
“Easter week is arguably the most hallowed period in the republican calendar, when we remember the men and women of 1916 and every subsequent generation of Irish rebels.
“Those in Belfast City Hall have made much of their plans to commemorate a no doubt sanitised and revised version of the events of 1916, for its centenary. Yet, when republicans of the city seek to commemorate their own dead they are met with the jackboot of the British state, the PSNI.
“Despite their attempts at intimidation, the éirígí activists involved were unflinching in their efforts to build a commemoration befitting those being remembered.
“The banners went up and the leaflets went out.
“Now, all that remains is for all socialists and republicans to attend this, and other events, sending a message to the wreckers that we will not be cowed.”
In conclusion, and in direct reference to increasing PSNI harassment, Pádraic stated that the long-awaited ‘Know Your Rights’ campaign, initiated by éirígí some time ago, is to be publicly launched by the party in the coming weeks.
“The PSNI, like the RUC before them, habitually abuse the rights of Irish citizens. We aim to dispel some of the myths around a number of these ‘Stop and Search’ provisions and powers, which will empower people to be more assertive in the face of them.
“It should also be noted that the PSNI are but one abuser of rights in this society and as the campaign unfolds a number of other abusers will be identified and campaigned against as well.”
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“If you strike at, imprison, or kill us, out of our prisons or graves we will still evoke a spirit that will thwart you, and perhaps, raise a force that will destroy you! We defy you! Do your worst!”
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