RepubliKen and Barbie: Terrorist sympathisers who want to emigrate here from the US to support dissident republicans
Glamour girl Gina poses for pin-up propaganda photographs to send to republican prisoners
Published 07/04/2014 | 07:00
Meet the US ‘Barbie’ who is moving to Northern Ireland to support dissident republican terrorists.
She’s New Yorker Gina Palmeri who sends pin-up photos of herself to dissident prisoners and who shamefully declares that young Catholic PSNI officer Ronan Kerr deserved to die.
Beauty therapist Palmeri, 22, only became a republican hardliner six months ago but already she and her boyfriend Andy Reeves — who wants to be an NYPD officer — have provoked the anger of loyalists who have dubbed them “Ken and Barbie”. Gina Palmeri took the ‘Barbie’ jibes as a compliment.
The pair became a target for online abuse after taking part in New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade.
The couple say they were sent death threats after a photograph of them holding a controversial IRA banner at the Fifth Avenue march appeared on a loyalist protester’s social media site.
But Reeves and Palmeri say they are now even more determined to move to County Antrim where they will openly support the killing of security force members.
“Me and Andy consider ourselves dissident republicans and support the armed struggle against an armed occupation in the north,” Gina told Sunday Life from her Long Island home.
“We are looking at all the different (dissident) groups right now and deciding on what one we want to be a part of first when we move over, but a lot of them are considered foreign terrorist organisations in the US.”
Aspiring police officer Andy added: “My grandmother was born in Co Roscommon so I am applying to get citizenship.
“We need to work out some things yet but hopefully in five years we will be over there to stay.
“We like Antrim because it’s in the country, but close to the city — we like rock climbing and hiking so that would be perfect.”
The terrorist sympathisers marched in front of more than one million spectators at the annual March 17 parade with Irish-American group Friends of Irish Freedom.
The organisation raises funds for republican prisoners and their families here, which is usually sent over each Christmas.
But Gina and Andy, who have only recently become members, have taken their support a step further — by sending racy pictures to Maghaberry’s Roe 4 republican wing.
One snap, sent to prominent Irish republican Martin Corey last year, shows a topless Gina covering her breasts with a pair of Tri-colour boxing gloves. Andy is beside her holding a placard which reads, ‘F*** the British Army’.
Another snap shows Andy holding up a Tri-colour flag and wearing a hoodie with the words, ‘Get Britain out of Ireland’. Gina is next to him holding a poster which reads, ‘Remember Bloody Sunday’.
“We are told it keeps their spirits up,” giggled Gina.
“Me and Andy actually spoke with Stephen Murney the other day, who was just released from prison, and he talked about how he got the pictures and how everyone loved them.”
“We’ve had loads of support from republicans in the north,” added Andy, who sat his first police entrance exam last year.
“They tell us to keep up the great work, that we are doing a great job.
“We empathise with them because they don’t have any rights,” he claimed.
“The PSNI treat them (republicans) really bad — and the thing is they are an occupying force and have no right to be in Ireland.”
Asked if they supported the killing of security forces here, including the 2010 murder of Catholic PSNI constable Ronan Kerr, Gina said: “It’s an armed struggle, so yeah. They are an occupying British force, they are not civilians.”
Andy added: “He (Ronan Kerr) chose to be part of an occupying force that oppresses the Irish people so regardless of whether he is a Catholic or not, you know... I’m saying it’s an armed struggle against an armed occupation.”
But while happy to declare their support for violence by republicans, Gina and Andy said they were “disgusted” at recent comments made by loyalist politician Billy Hutchinson.
The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) leader claimed in an interview last month that his murder of two Catholic men on their way to work helped prevent a united Ireland.
Michael Loughran and Edward Morgan were shot dead by Hutchinson and UVF youth member Thomas Winstone as they walked on the Falls Road in 1974.
Andy said: “I mean, anybody whether they are Catholic or Protestant, if they are innocent they don’t deserve to die. I am an atheist, religion shouldn’t matter to anybody, their sexual orientation, race.
“So for someone to come out and brag about killing two innocent people because of their religion is disgusting, no matter what they are,” he said.
Gina — whose knowledge of Northern Ireland is so limited that she admits that she has never heard of DUP founder Rev Ian Paisley — added: “I agree.”
Describing the threats posted to him over Facebook, Andy, who hopes to sit his final police entrance exam at the end of this year, said: “One guy threatened to kill my mother, another threatened to put seven bullets in the back of my head.
“Another guy said he was going to tie me up in his basement and kill me, a bunch of different things. I used to see the loyalists as more of a political party, but now I see a lot of them as bigots.
“I’ve never seen a republican be like that, I’ve never seen a republican ever make a death threat to another person.”
Gina added: “I got a ton of different messages, people calling me ugly, that I look like a whore... all these ridiculous things that have nothing to do with what me and Andy stand for.
“They (loyalists) even called us Barbie and Ken — which they think is an insult but it’s actually a compliment.”
Both say they will continue their republican “campaigning” in America — raising funds for prisoners.
They also insist they will march in next year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in New York.
“We are confident the PSNI won’t be at next year’s parade,” said Andy.
“I don’t know what the parade community was thinking inviting the RUC to march in an Irish parade. It was despicable.
“It was the first time ever, so hopefully it won’t be happening again. But if it does, we will be there to protest.”