Thursday, 22 April 2010

Positive Public Meeting

Last night Republicans in Newry attended a packed public meeting in the Arts centre regarding British Policing in Ireland. The meeting was hosted by the Republican Network for Unity and the top table consisted of Ex-POWs and former combatants Tony Catney and Mairtin Óg Meehan and Lorna Brady the sister of Óglach John Brady.

Each of the speakers gave examples of their own personal experiences with British policing beginning with Lorna. Lorna gave a very moving speech and spoke of the harassment her family had to endure over the years, a lot of which was directed at her brother John even though he was very young. Eventually John being a Volunteer ended up incarcerated for his republican activities. Lorna then on to explain that her brother spent just 4 years of his adult life outside of prison, the rest of his life was spent incarcerated by the British and then he was eventually murdered. I don't think there was one person in that room who wasn't moved by Lorna's account and experiences of her, her family and John.

A good comrade of mine, Mairtin Óg Meehan, then gave his account of his 1st hand experiences with British policing and the injustices that come with that. Firstly he spoke of his admiration of Newry and it's people and explained how his late father having a great love for "the town", as he fondly called it, when he was active in the border area in the early 70s. Mairtin Óg told of his experiences and encounters with the British police as both a community activist and proud socialist Republican. He spoke about the harassment directed at the community based anti-drugs group CFAD, who have done some magnificent work in Belfast over the past 18 months in tackling the scourge of drugs. Anti-drugs activists have been regularly harassed and arrested by the British police for their community activities. He then told us about a serious incident when a fellow Republican and community activists had his house attacked. While going to his comrades house with a fellow Republican to show solidarity, Mairtin was stopped at a British police checkpoint. The enemy forces asked him his name and as soon as he told them he was punched in the face and had an entire canister of CS gas emptied in his face! Another member of the British militia grabbed a rifle, cocked it and stuck it through the window of the car. Mairtin was then kicked over to the other side of the car, was handcuffed and then taken to an enemy barracks. Mairtin asked for medical treatment due to a heart condition and was refused, he was taken to a  barracks and was made to stand in the car park for 4 hours. When he did eventually see a doctor in the barracks and had his blood pressure taken the doctor immediately sent him to the hospital.

Former POW Tony Catney gave a detailed account of his views of British policing in Ireland, he also spoke of smear campaigns and black propaganda being directed towards Republicans by the media and various others. Tony is no stranger to smears and gave a light-hearted mention to him being featured in the Sunday papers recently. Tony spoke about himself being arrested and harassed numerous times by the British police.

The public then had the chance to voice their views in regards to policing, many of those who spoke told how they felt abandoned by former Republicans. They also told about how false promises were made to them, they were told that the police would be held to account and that manners would be put on them, but sadly that has never materialised. People now feel that they have been left at the mercy of hoods, drug dealers and criminals and that former Republicans who were once to the fore in protecting the vulnerable communities now look the other way and live the good life. Another thing that was mentioned a lot was Mi5's continued involvement in occupied Ireland.

One thing that stuck out at the meeting was that there were many Ex-POWs, lifelong Republicans, community activists and former volunteers in attendance, all of which were singing off the same hymn sheet. It's assuring to know that people of such calibre are still remaining true to the Republican cause and have not sided with the enemy unlike others. I have no doubt in my mind that Republicanism can be rebuilt and in recent times republicans have made great strides in doing just that.

Republicans in Newry will continue to help rebuild that movement and will continue to oppose, expose and highlight British policing in Ireland and we will have plenty of events in the coming days and weeks.

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