Belfast Telegraph

Sinister twist to dissident threats

By Clare Weir and Brendan McDaid

Dissident republican threats against elected Sinn Fein members today took a sinister twist in west Tyrone when a package containing bullets and pictures of elected representatives was left in a graveyard.

The dramatic development comes as the political battle over policing was today hotting up, as both Sinn Fein and dissident republicans prepare to hold meetings in Londonderry.

The North West Telegraph understands that several republicans in the Strabane area are among those who received threats.

A Sinn Fein source said that they were contained in a package, left in a cemetery, that included live bullets.

Although there were few details this morning on who received the threats left in the package, a Sinn Fein spokesman said that a statement would be released later today.

The sinister development comes just over a week before Sinn Fein stages a major meeting in the Millennium Forum on January 25, amid moves by opponents to fight the Assembly election on an anti-policing platform.

Republicans opposed to support for the PSNI will meet in the city tomorrow night.

It also emerged today that Peggy O'Hara, the mother of INLA hunger striker, Patsy O'Hara, will contest the forthcoming Assembly election in Foyle.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is expected to attend next Thursday's meeting at the Millennium Forum, which will precede Sinn Fein's crucial ard fheis on the policing issue at the end of the month.

But tomorrow evening, republicans opposed to policing - including speakers from the INLA-linked IRSP and 32 County Sovereignty Movement, aligned to the Real IRA - will meet at the Tower Hotel.

Willie Gallagher, of the IRSP, said today that organisers are expecting a large turnout.

He also backed Peggy O'Hara's move to stand as an anti-PSNI candidate at the Assembly elections.

Mrs O'Hara (76), who was backed by an IRSP Ard Comhairle at the weekend, has said that her son, who died in 1981, would be angered by any Sinn Fein decision to accept policing in its current form.

Willie Gallagher said today: "We are basically bringing this policing debate to the wider community and we are expecting a big turnout.

"I would most definitely be supporting Peggy O'Hara in her decision to stand as she is very angry with the way she has been treated.

"Many families of the deceased say they have not been consulted by Sinn Fein.

"We want that party to come along, explain themselves and tell the bereaved what their intentions are," he said.

"Sinn Fein should not be kowtowing to the DUP any longer, but it looks as if they will be jumping through even more hoops if past history is anything to go by."

A spokesperson for Sinn Fein today welcomed all forms of dialogue on the very contentious issue.

He added that everyone is welcome to attend the party's forthcoming meeting which is being held at the Millennium Forum on January 25.

"We hope that the public, anyone with an interest, can come to this meeting, which is part of a series across the north explaining Sinn Fein's strategy," he said.

While he would not confirm whether Sinn Fein would attend the meeting of disaffected republicans tomorrow, the spokesman added: "We have engaged in a process of discussion and consultation both outside and within the party, and it is obvious that we haven't reached everybody."

Belfast Telegraph


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