Belfast Telegraph

Republican protest halts British Legion charity concert in Limerick

'Strange' organisation invited says Sinn Fein

Armed gardai were called to defuse a heated situation at a playground fundraiser in County Limerick where a dozen Republicans staged a protest against a British Legion band concert.

As a result of the activists’ disapproval of the event disappointed organisers – the Knocklong History Group – were forced to call off Tuesday night's charity concert at the local community centre.

The British Legion Leiston Band, hailing from the small town of Leiston in East Suffolk, was invited to perform a brass concert, which was to take a moment to remember the Knocklong men killed in the First World War, with proceeds going towards a playground for the local Heritage Park.

However, a planned “peaceful protest” scuppered any hopes of an enjoyable night going ahead, with 12 “Irish Socialist Republicans” arriving at the scene at around 6pm.

More than 10 gardaí arrived at the scene, according to a spokesperson for the campaign, which was entitled ‘British Imperialists not welcome in Knocklong’.

The spokesperson said that “despite the ring of steel around Knocklong Community Centre”, the Republicans “successfully prevented the pro-imperialist event” from taking place.

He claimed that there was a “heavy garda presence”, including three squad cars, an armed response team, and members of the special branch. Gardaí confirmed that the regional support unit were at the scene.

A spokesperson for the Knocklong History Group said that it was “very disappointed that it was not possible for the concert to proceed. We would like to thank the band from Leiston for all their work preparing for the concert and traveling to Knocklong to perform. We wish them every good wish and hope that one day they will be able to play in Knocklong.”

Protester and Knocklong native, George McAnaspie said that the protest was a “massive victory for Socialist Republicans in the Munster area”. Mr McAnaspie’s grandfather was involved in the rescue mission of IRA leader Sean Hogan in 1919, which took place in Knocklong.

“Left unchecked, events like the concert in Knocklong could become subtle recruiting grounds for the Brit Army in Ireland and therefore must be opposed.”

He added: “Let the message go out loud and clear from Knocklong, Brit Imperialists are not welcome in Ireland and will be challenged.”

Limerick Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan said: “I think it is a bit strange somebody invited them and didn’t expect any sort of reaction to it. I am not saying that I condemn or support it, but it would be controversial to invite the British Legion band to come to a rural village, where there was a huge armed resistance during the British occupation at the time. It seems a bit strange that you would invite just the band from the occupying forces and not to have a Republican-type band – a bit of balance.”

On July 30, a group called Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland posted on Facebook about the concert.

“Normalisation must be opposed. Imperialism in Ireland must be confronted. Brit Military recruitment in Ireland must be Challenged.

“Therefore the concert in Knocklong must be opposed by Socialist Republicans and all those opposed to the illegal British presence in Ireland and in nations all over the world. Join us at 6pm this Tuesday at Knocklong Community Centre and let's take a stand for our youth, for our class and for our country against Imperialism!”

Gardaí said no arrests were made on the night. A number of attempts were made to contact the British Legion Leiston band.

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