Gardai fear trouble as Sinn Fein and dissidents plan Dublin rallies
Gerry Adams has called on his faithful to attend a 'huge' march in the capital next Sunday, writes Jim Cusack
Gardai are gearing up for potential trouble in Dublin city centre next weekend as Sinn Fein and dissident republicans plan to mark the actual anniversary of the 1916 Rising with rallies.
Gerry Adams has called on his supporters to attend a "huge march" through the city next Sunday to coincide with the party's ard fheis in the National Convention Centre on the Liffey Quays.
Gardai are concerned about breakaway republican groups who have caused trouble in the past and tried to disrupt the Queen's visit in May 2011.
But one major source of concern is a possible counter-demonstration by loyalists, and particularly those associated with the 'Love Ulster' group, whose plans to hold a rally in Dublin city centre sparked the riots of February 2006. Loyalist sources have told the Sunday Independent this is a "possibility".
Adams has so far made no public mention in the Republic of his plans for a "huge" march in Dublin. He made reference to the planned demonstration after he boycotted the official State commemoration on Easter Sunday and chose instead to mark the occasion at the Provisional IRA plot in Belfast's Milltown Cemetery.
The Sinn Fein leader announced the demonstration in his weekly column in the west Belfast-based weekly newspaper Andersonstown News, writing: "On April 22 and 23 in Dublin, Sinn Fein will hold our ard fheis. On Sunday, April 24 - the actual day of the Rising one hundred years ago - there will be a huge march in Dublin to celebrate that event.
"Our task as Irish citizens must be that when the centenary has come and gone, there is more left behind than a memory of a good day out.
"The reactionaries, the naysayers and begrudgers, the modern-day Redmondites who pontificate and waffle about how wrong 1916 was, are wrong."
It is not clear if Adams was referring to a march that has been under planning for at least two years by the National Graves Association, which intends marking the Sunday anniversary with a march from the GPO to Glasnevin Cemetery.
Asked what arrangements were being put in place for any such 'huge' rally, the Garda Press Office replied: "An Garda Siochana is aware that there are a number of commemorative events planned for the 24th of April.
"We are currently engaging with a number of event organisers and Dublin City Council regarding this particular weekend and Garda management is continually assessing the operational needs and will ensure that sufficient resources are deployed."
Sinn Fein did not respond to queries.
Des Dalton, spokesman for Republican Sinn Fein, said his party would hold a rally on the Saturday so as not to clash with the National Graves Association event on the Sunday. The RSF rally will march from the GPO to the Garden of Remembrance.
Gardai have been in close liaison with the PSNI about both republican and loyalist activity since the murder of Belfast prison officer, Adrian Ismay, 52, who was killed by an under-car bomb containing Provisional IRA Semtex plastic explosive on March 4.
Mr Ismay lived in the predominantly loyalist east side of Belfast and was married with children, including a teenage daughter with Down syndrome.
There have been reports in Belfast of divisions within the loyalist groups and the emergence of militant elements preparing to renew violence in the event of a step-up in republican attacks.
The policing concerns about next Sunday also extend to Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the police have advised publicans across Glasgow not to display flags and banners which might provoke sectarian trouble.
On Easter Sunday itself, republican dissident groups put on paramilitary displays and police came under attack from rioters in Lurgan, Co Armagh.
Security sources in Northern Ireland had been confident until recently that the rise of dissident republicanism was being contained.
Most of the so-called dissident republican groups were infiltrated by the British Intelligence Service, MI5. The Garda Special Detective Unit has also scored repeated and major successes against attempts by the dissidents to create a support base in the Republic for attacks in Northern Ireland and Britain.
However, the continuing rise in Britain of more pressing concerns over the growth of Islamist terrorism has diverted MI5 resources back to Britain, leaving what sources say is an intelligence gap in Northern Ireland. This may have contributed to the lack of any forward intelligence on the 'New' IRA plot to kill Prison Officer Ismay at his home in east Belfast.
Garda sources say that fortunately the problems which have beset detectives and mainstream gardai policing 'ordinary' crime have not caused disruption in the work of the Special Detective Unit, which has, quietly but effectively, scored repeated hits against republican terrorist targets.
Notably, the Special Branch here managed to avoid being collapsed into the ranks of ordinary policing, as happened with the former Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch in the North, which was disbanded under the 'Peace Process' arrangements.
Senior sources say the concern is that if the dissidents step up their violence in the North, history has shown that a loyalist 'backlash' is inevitably not far behind.