DUP brands IRA re-enactment with fake guns a ‘glorification of violence’
Mainstream republicans have dressed up as masked Provisional IRA members and wielded an array of replica weapons on the streets of Londonderry.
The scenes unfolded in the Bogside last weekend as half-a-dozen young republicans appeared wearing combat gear, balaclavas and berets.
They carried a range of imitation weapons including an Armalite rifle, Kalashnikov, Dragunov sniper rifle and a stick grenade.
They adopted firing positions on the streets as part of a history tour by a republican band that supports Sinn Fein.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell last night claimed that the event glorified paramilitary violence.
"I was alarmed when I saw photographs of what had occurred," he said.
"I see them as seeking to glorify and sanitise IRA violence.
"The Provisionals' campaign took a terrible toll on our community and these scenes are not appropriate.
"I believe they will convey to children that it is OK to join a paramilitary group when that is most certainly not the case.
"These images send out a very negative message that is in direct conflict with Sinn Fein's stated political position on a peaceful way forward for Northern Ireland."
Alliance Justice spokesperson Trevor Lunn MLA said: “Masked men in paramilitary uniforms have no place in modern society, whether a re-enactment or otherwise.
“Paramilitary displays are sinister and must be left in the past where they belong. The appearance of firearms, even imitation ones, is always concerning,” said Mr Lunn.
“If we want to build a united community which is welcoming for everyone, this type of activity should be seen for the unacceptable spectacle it is.”
A Sinn Fein spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph that the party was not behind the event, which, he said, was organised by a local republican band.
And he revealed that the PSNI had been warned in advance that the history tour would include "historical re-enactments with period costume and... imitation firearms".
The event, which was a fundraiser for the Spirit of Freedom Republican Flute Band, was held in the Bogside on Saturday to coincide with the anniversary of IRA member Jim Friel, who was a member of a local flute band.
In a statement on social media before the event, Derry republican Micky Kinsella noted Jim Friel's anniversary and named other IRA members who were also in flute bands.
He said: "Connections between the armed struggle and the local flute band scene will be discussed on the tour."
Mr Kinsella explained that the tour would include 17th century sieges, the origins of The Fountain, the 1920 June riots, a 1943 IRA jail escape "and some recent modern IRA operations in the area". He said: "I hope that some band members will dress as armed volunteers etc. to help authenticate some scenes along the way."
Mr Kinsella stated that "historical turning points" would be mentioned on the tour such as the Battle of the Bogside, internment, Bloody Sunday, prison struggles and the peace process.
"It will be an opportunity to learn how events from the past contributed to events of the present day. It will be especially helpful to the young party and band members and to those who have never really been given a proper idea of Irish history at school," he added.
The Sinn Fein spokesman last night said: "The pictures were taken during a history tour organised by the Spirit of Freedom Flute Band.
"The tour covered the history of the area from St Columba, the Siege of Derry right up to and including the period from the 1920s to the recent conflict and peace process.
"The organisers informed the police in advance that the tour would include historical re-enactments with period costume and that imitation firearms, which cannot be fired, would be on display."