On Thursday morning, May 9, again three houses were raided, and four people arrested under terrorism legislation in Derry. The four males, aged 15, 18, 38, 51, were taken to the Serious Crime Suite in Musgrave Station. In a statement, the Republican party Saoradh spoke of an “onslaught of harassment”. I asked Saoradh in Derry for the numbers behind this claim.
In a recent interview with me, Saoradh national spokesperson Paddy Gallagher said that Republicans “face unprecedented harassment from Crown Forces” in Derry. He claims that houses of activists are regularly raided, and Republican activist stopped and searched on almost a daily basis.
Stop and search
For a German national broadcaster NDR Strg-F documentary in February 2019, Gallagher showed his collection of stop-and-search certificates. Since August 2018, he collected dozens of these certificates, proving that he had been stopped and searched several times a week over the previous six months.
As I explained here, here, and here, early morning raids and riots are regular images in the nationalist working-class areas of Derry.
Following the recent raid of the Derry office of Saoradh, the Junior McDaid House, the party stated: “Since the formation of Saoradh British Crown Forces have directed an onslaught of harassment towards party members and supporters and this has culminated in another combined Crown Forces and British Military Intelligence raid on our party headquarters.”
Heightened tensions before April 18
While the party holds no data of house raids before April 18, since the death of Lyra McKee on the morning of April 19 following a gunshot wound – a fatal shot claimed by the so-called “New IRA” – precise numbers are available.
The riots on April 18 started during house raids by the PSNI in the Creggan area of Derry. While raids are usually conducted in the early morning hours, the April 18 raids started in the late afternoon. The PSNI has yet to answer why they deployed this unusual practice.
The timing of the raids, merely days before the Derry Easter commemoration of the “Derry 1916 Commemoration Committee”, aligned to the Junior McDaid House, leads to the suggestion that the PSNI did not act in an attempt to ease already heightened tensions in the area. The night before, a police car had already been attacked with an incendiary device by Republicans in the area.
Since April 19: 8 raids, 7 arrests
Since the tragic events on the night of April 18, six houses of Saoradh activist and their office were raided by the PSNI. There have been six people arrested; they are aged 15, two are 18, 19, 38, and 51. One 18 and the 19-year-old were arrested the days after Easter and subsequently released unconditionally. The other four were arrested on May 9; an activist of Saoradh in Derry told me that “it is widely expected these men will be released without charge soon”.
Of the six houses raided, three are homes of Éistigí members, the youth department of Saoradh and three are the homes of Saoradh members.
Additionally, there was one other home raided and a 57-year-old woman detained. She has since also been released and is not affiliated with Saoradh.
Talking to Paddy Gallagher yesterday, he again stressed that “the harassment is unprecedented and continues to be. Our party members and supporters are constantly stopped and searched”.
Saoradh and the “IRA”
Since the killing of Lyra McKee, the PSNI has hardened the grip around Republicans in Derry, as reported by the Sunday Life (well, I know). In recent weeks, several Republicans were fined for their participation in an unauthorised Easter commemoration in 2018.
The raiding of houses of Republicans, the arrests of activists, and their subsequent unconditional releases mirror the PSNI tactic in the immediate aftermath of the car bomb in January 2019 which was also claimed by the so-called “New IRA”.
No one has yet been charged for either the car bomb or the killing of Lyra McKee. As I outlined before, Saoradh and the “IRA” are not the same organisation, despite claims of the PSNI of identical membership. Contrary, the claims that the two organisations share identical membership merely serve a political purpose. As long as the PSNI is unable to provide hard evidence, one must be forgiven to think that the house raids since late January are nothing but a publicity stunt to satisfy politicians and sections of the Northern Irish public.
Update: Two men aged 38 and 51 were charged for rioting, car and truck hijacking, resp., and petrol bombs during the riots that led to the death of Lyra McKee; The other two aged 15 and were 18 release without charges.