Belfast Telegraph

Priest to meet dissidents' families

A priest is to meet supporters of dissident republicans who claim their families are being harassed by police.

Father Paddy O'Kane, from Londonderry, has already challenged gunmen over their violence.

He agreed to the meeting after talks with the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, which represents the Real IRA politically.

"People come every day with their pain, all we can do is listen," he said.

"It is just a blotting paper exercise. Those families are innocent, whatever their (dissident republican) supporters are doing. If they are in pain, the least I can do is listen to their pain."

He has criticised those behind the bomb attack on Strand Road police station in Derry and recent hoax bomb alerts. He said he conveyed the inhumanity of the attacks during the talks with the 32 County Sovereignty Committee.

But he said he had a pastoral duty to listen to the families' concerns after they approached him for an audience.

"They are claiming they have complained about this (police behaviour) for some time and no-one wants to listen to them," he added.

The 32 County Sovereignty Committee is linked to the Real IRA, which has claimed responsibility for a number of recent attacks in Londonderry, including the murder of Kieran Doherty in February.

Police have warned they are facing the greatest threat from dissidents since 1998.

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