Belfast Telegraph

Derry youth club cancels police event due to Saoradh protest threat

The event was to take place at the Guildhall in Londonderry
The event was to take place at the Guildhall in Londonderry

A youth club event involving the police has been cancelled after a political party representing dissident republicans threatened to protest.

The Long Tower Youth Club in Londonderry was planning on holding a conference in the city's Guildhall for young people on Wednesday, however the political party Saoradh said it would hold a protest at the presence of the PSNI, reports the BBC.

Management at the youth club said it had attempted to "engage in a dialogue" with Saoradh, which was refused, and therefore had "no option" but to cancel the event.

PSNI Superintendent Alan Hutton said: "This event was a fantastic opportunity for young people to express their views on issues that matter to them to a range of partners and it is unfortunate that the whole day had to be cancelled.

"Our young people's voices need to be heard."

Saoradh, the Irish word for 'liberation', was formed in 2016.

The PSNI say the group is closely aligned to the self-styled New IRA terror gang that planted a car bomb at a Londonderry courthouse earlier this year.

Youth work is about providing the platform for young people to engage directly with those who they have issues with....

Posted by Long Tower YC on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Saoradh spokesman Paddy Gallagher said youth clubs "should be a neutral environment for children to flourish, develop and associate with their peers.

"Not to be used as a political mechanism to adopt a broader acceptance of so called policing and normalisation within the Six Counties."

In a post on social media, Long Tower Youth Club said the event was to allow young people to express their views on stop and search procedures, house raids and policing in the community.

They added: "This was never about going into a room and the police talking down to young people, it was about having the hard conversations and meaningful dialogue so that our members can take the journey of developing a community where they can develop a deeper understanding of each other and the roles they play within the community.

"The management of Long Tower have tried to engage in dialogue with the particular organisation who have a issue with this event as they have vowed to stage a protest, this request for engagement has been refused. Therefore we have no option but to cancel this event."

Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton said the news was "very worrying" and called on leadership from nationalists in Londonderry.

"We are continually told about “micro-groups” who have no support yet we now see an event scheduled for the main civic building of our city cancelled due to threats of protest," he said.

"Those who claim to speak on behalf of the overwhelming majority of nationalists and republicans in Londonderry need to step forward and demonstrate the leadership they are so ready to demand from others.

"The Chief Constable has previously talked about the need for nationalism to take “another step in terms of policing”. The cancellation of this event demonstrates the need for leadership is greater than ever."

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