Belfast Telegraph

Illegal dissident republican march through Derry passes off peacefully

By Eamonn MacDermott

An illegal dissident republican Easter commemoration parade has passed off in Londonderry without incident.

The march has previously seen masked men read out statements on behalf of the terror groups.

The dissident republican commemoration took place in Derry City cemetery and began with a 10-man colour party in uniforms and wearing dark glasses marching into the Creggan area.

They were closely followed by several PSNI Land Rovers with police issuing continuous warnings by loud hailer to those taking part that it was an illegal march.

As the colour party approached the cemetery they were joined by several hundred people who then marched to the republican plot.

After a reading of the Proclamation of 1916 and the laying of wreaths, a statement from dissident republican prisoners was read out.

In it they claimed that there is "a MI5/DUP/Prison Officers Association axis" seeking to create confrontation within the prison system here.

Stevie Mellon, the father of a prisoner currently in Maghaberry read the message which said: "At a time when Stormont claims to be in crisis over how best to rob the poor, in Maghaberry Prison there is an endless budget to create confrontation."

The statement also claimed that there was an increase in a policy of isolation within Maghaberry and that the authorities were on the "offensive" against republican prisoners.

Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association said the prisoners' charges were completely untrue.

He said: "We have no agenda. Our job is to serve the public and the inmates that are in our care.

"They are in prison and can make life difficult for officers.

"It's not our job to run the Prison Service and the Prison Officers Association is there simply to represent its members.

"There is no secret agenda to create conflict, in fact it is against our own interests as life is easier for everyone when things run smoothly."

Independent republican councillor Gary Donnelly also addressed the crowd.

He said that Irish republicans are "united in failure".

He said: "No matter which monument you stand at in 2016, no matter which banner or flag you gather under, the answer to the sole question emanating from our patriot graves as to whether the ideals of the Proclamation are yet realised, the collective answer will be a resounding no."

Mr Donnelly said that republicans "have lost the ability to communicate".

He asked: "What is the point in fighting for our right to water but not recognising that partition impinges on our sovereign right to all of our natural resources."

He concluded: "The centenary of 1916 affords us an unprecedented opportunity to forge a political strategy which has the dynamic and insight to once and for all liberate our people."

The crowd then dispersed peacefully.

Dissidents fired shots at another commemoration in Lurgan, Co Armagh over the weekend.

A widow of a police officer killed by dissidents slammed the Continuity IRA display. Kate Carroll, whose husband Stephen was gunned down by the group just a few miles away, said she was angry that gunmen were able to fire shots during the Easter terror display.

Masked dissident republicans took over St Coleman's Cemetery in Lurgan for the Easter Rising Commemoration.

His widow said: "I just can't see what they think they are going to achieve. They pose great danger at a time of peace.

"It is too dangerous for the police to go in and make arrests during displays like this. They would be shot, just like my Stevie."

Belfast Telegraph

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