‘Orangefest’ in Newry Brings State Harassment
“Orangefest” has once again graced the streets of nationalist Newry, treating local residents to hours of disruption, bigotry and state force harassment.
The centre of Newry resembled a ghost town with many shops opting to remain closed and most residents deciding to stay at home. The ‘benefits for local economy’ we so often hear about to justify such events was nowhere to be seen. The ‘colourful display and enjoyable experience’ didn’t materialise for the people of Newry.
Thousands of Orangemen accompanied by dozens of bands took part in the annual sectarian ritual which also included a large scale security operation mounted by British state forces. Local residents, including éirígí’s local representative Stephen Murney, were stopped, searched and questioned throughout the day by the PSNI who used the occasion to step up their harassment of the local population.
Stephen explained, “I had arranged to meet Councillor Davy Hyland and another comrade beside the Town Hall to observe this coat-trailing exercise. Before I had even reached my destination I was stopped and questioned under the Justice & Security Act. When I eventually met Davy, we immediately found ourselves surrounded by members of the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group (TSG). For a second time I was questioned under the Justice and Security Act, while Davy and another comrade also had their details noted. We were also photographed and videoed by the PSNI for “intelligence purposes” while our comrade was threatened with arrest.
“While standing watching the parade members of the Orange Order were shouting abuse at councillor Hyland and made obscene hand gestures towards us in an attempt to provoke a reaction. They failed, but the PSNI unsurprisingly didn’t intervene. Another more serious incident occurred when members of a loyalist flute band went to attack a photographer who had dared step in front of their band to take a photograph. Again the PSNI stood idly by and did nothing despite being situated just a few feet away from the incident.”
Murney continued, “Shortly after the parade had left the centre of Newry, I was stopped and searched for ammunition for a third time while Davy Hyland, for a second time, had his details recorded. There was no justification whatsoever for the harassment we received today. Many other people, including councillors and members of other parties, were standing observing this march a few feet from us unhindered yet the PSNI took exception to our presence and deliberately targeted us.
“While the people who live in Newry cannot walk freely in their own city, thousands of unionists can indulge in threatening behaviour, intimidation and provocation while being protected by the forces of the British state.”
Stephen ended by saying, “We certainly won’t be intimidated by sectarian shows of strength nor will we be deterred by PSNI harassment. We will continue to campaign for the right of everyone to live free from sectarian harassment and intimidation.”