Tuesday, 7 August 2012
The following is the text of a letter sent to the North Belfast News today regarding their reports of "threats" against community worlers last week. Please copy and share
7th August 2012
To the Editor,
We, the undersigned, would like to respond to last weeks edition of the North Belfast News and a number of articles detailing alleged “threats” to community workers employed in the Ardoyne area.
As individuals and Republicans from the area we would like to point out that we speak for no particular group from the area, nor are we aligned to any political party within the area, nor do we speak for them. Political parties can speak for themselves in our opinion. We are Independent Republican Activists.
With regards to the letter handed in to the Ardoyne Community Centre, we think it is important to point out that the majority of staff within the Centre have contacted or made representation to individual Republicans, including a number of former POWs, expressing their opposition to the presence of the PSNI within the Centre, and the heavy military presence that accompanies PSNI attendees, for Interagency Meetings. It is a fact that, following advice from Republicans, staff informed their line managers and trade unions to highlight the negative impact on the running of the Centre and the restrictions that the accompanying “security” operation places on accessibility to the Centre and playground. In fact staff and volunteers from almost all the community groups in Ardoyne currently engaging with the PSNI have approached local Republicans stating their opposition to having to work with the PSNI in any way other than compulsory matters, e.g. Child Protection issues.
Inside the Centre, Naiscoil Ard Eoin (now Nai-Ionad Ard-Eoin) operates, not beside the Centre as last weeks NBN stated. For around the last year, both Alan Lundy and Dee Fennell have had to remove their four year old children from the Naiscoil within the Centre on each occasion that the Interagency meetings have taken place. This is due to the traumatic effects that the PSNI presence has had on their children. This includes nightmares, begging not to go to school and associated evidence of emotional trauma that we do not wish to disclose. It is important to point out that these children have been present during stop and searches that are designed to humiliate and demonise their fathers, stop and searches carried out by heavily armed men that obviously causes distress to young children. In Alan’s case his children have also been present for numerous house raids, during which his partner and two youngest children have been trailed from their beds and had property and toys seized. In addition both Dee and Alan have had warnings that they will be “put away, “stiffed”, or “snuffed out” in the presence of their children, not a threat to be taken lightly when you consider the RUC involvement in the murder of Alan’s father and Alan Jr’s internment, again on the word of one of the three officers who attend these Interagency meetings. These threats have been issued by the very same personnel that attend Interagency meetings, meaning that while children are supposed to be in a safe and secure learning environment, they are in fact feeling under threat. These issues were raised, to their credit, by the Naiscoil committee and forwarded on to meeting organisers. One of these, Sean Mag Uidhir of CRJI, a fellow Naiscoil committee member, was also confronted directly by Dee Fennell and asked to ensure meetings would no longer be held where children are present. Other parents also find the presence of the PSNI, who are on the premises up to two hours before the 1pm start time of meetings on occasion, totally unacceptable, yet are fearful of speaking out lest they be labelled as “dissidents.” We find the insistence of the organisers of Interagency meetings to continue, over a twelve month period, to contribute to the trauma of children an absolute disgrace. Especially considering that many of the same people attending these meetings took the correct stance of opposing the Holy Cross blockade by loyalists, based on the effect it had on the pupils there, including other relatives of ours who attended that school. This is one of the reasons why Ardoyne Community Centre received a letter asking them to desist from hosting the PSNI. No other armed men or women would be tolerated in any community facility or Church grounds, and rightly so. Why should the PSNI be any different? And why should our children be any less entitled to a safe, neutral learning environment than other children?
As CRJ book the room for these Interagency meetings, as well as inviting the PSNI into our area on a daily basis, they also received the same letter. Nowhere within either letter is there anything that could possibly be construed as a threat, in fact when the letter to CRJ was delivered it was made abundantly clear at the time that any future action in opposition to these meetings would be “peaceful and radical” in direct response to a question asked by a male CRJI member of staff. With the abundance of recording and CCTV equipment at the entrance of the CRJI Ardoyne office, we are sure this would have been picked up easily. Within six separate articles in last weeks NBN around this story there are no mentions of any specific threat, despite the sensationalist headlines. As well as this we had a photograph of a number of people who the North Belfast News described as “Political, religious and community leaders”, and it would be wrong to pretend that those in the photograph are not involved in community work within the area. None of those pictured have attended any protests opposing political internment of Alan Lundy and others, while at least Gerry Kelly was honest when he said he and his party would do nothing to support the Lundy family, when he met his brother Daniel, sister Clare and partner Danielle. Some have tried to justify non attendance of these protests to Alan’s mother by stating that they “would not feel comfortable standing with” some of those protesting, yet the very same people recently featured in a UTV Tonight report where they attended a residential in Bangor with senior members of the North Belfast UDA, including it’s self styled Brigadier. It is also noteworthy that of the 25 pictured, at least 15 are members of Sinn Fein while the majority of the remaining 10 work for SF at election time, a political party that is fully in support of the PSNI and to the fore of pushing forward a normalisation agenda regarding policing. At least 17 are paid community workers who work for organisations that again support the PSNI normalisation agenda. However only 6-8 of those pictured actually live in Ardoyne.
The peaceful handing in of letters of opposition, or for that matter delivering of newssheets or leaflets in order to highlight injustices and denial of rights by the state militia that is the PSNI, is a totally legitimate form of peaceful political expression. From talking to staff and voluntary workers from a number of the organisations engaging with the PSNI, it is apparent that their main concern is the highlighting of these links as opposed to any alleged misinformation. As individuals, our opinion would be that it is vitally important that the community is fully aware of the nature of relationships and information sharing between community facilities and the PSNI. However what we find unacceptable are leaflets that personalise the issue by naming people that work in the community and makes allegations against them. It is counter productive and only serves to take away from the main issue which is the normalisation agenda in regards to the PSNI. What are even more unacceptable are attacks on the homes and property of local people, such as local Councillor Gerard McCabe and others. These people have families, and to attack anyone’s home for their political opinions is unjustifiable and we condemn it outright. Each of us has had our homes attacked in the past, either by anti-social elements, loyalists, or indeed the PSNI themselves. It is wrong and those doing it should stop. We cannot emphasise this enough.
In the last week one hundred or so Residents again protested at the presence of the PSNI within our community, this time at an Interagency Meeting in Ardoyne Hall. Several also entered the meeting, and read a statement asking those in attendance to cease their involvement in a campaign to make the PSNI acceptable within our community. What was particularly disheartening, especially for the Lundy family, was seeing supposed friends and neighbours walking into this meeting with PSNI officers, including the officer who has falsely identified Alan Lundy and led to his internment in Maghaberry Gaol where he is currently on dirty protest and smearing his excrement on the wall as a Republican Political Prisoner. Also present were officers who were in attendance when Ta McWilliams was arrested with no evidence against him and his partner and children held and harassed for a number of hours. This protest is an example of the peaceful action that people within Ardoyne, fed up with harassment, house raids, passing of details to loyalists, death threats, plastic bullets, facilitation of Loyal Order parades, etc will be taking to oppose their presence within our community.
In recent days we have also witnessed a well respected 57 year old Republican former Blanketman, who has served over 16 years in jail and on Life Licence, trailed off to Antrim Serious Crime Suite in front of his partner, children and infant grandchild. He has suffered from a life threatening brain tumour and recently underwent life saving triple heart bypass surgery. This again highlights the need for local opposition to a unionist militia that, despite the words of others, has failed to have manners put upon them. They remain the armed protectors of the state and as such should be opposed by all Irish Republicans, while PSNI human rights abuses should lead to all those with an interest in this field to speak up and have their voices heard.
Alan Lundy (Roe House, Maghaberry Gaol)