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Tuesday 28 January 2020

Six arrested after masked men threaten violence at 1916 event in Derry

A colour party from the 32 county sovereignty movement parades to Creggan Cemetery (AP)
A colour party from the 32 county sovereignty movement parades to Creggan Cemetery (AP)
A masked member from the dissident Real IRA reads a statement to supporters at Creggan Cemetery, Londonderry (AP)

POLICE in Northern Ireland have arrested six people after a masked man at a republican commemoration threatened further violence by dissidents opposed to the peace process.

The event to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland was addressed by a hooded spokesman for the Real IRA who pledged further attacks on police and soldiers.

Police said they chose to maintain a distance from the event in the Creggan cemetery in Derry, but a security force helicopter monitored the scene.

A senior detective has confirmed six men were arrested and taken to Antrim for questioning.

The Easter Monday event was organised by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and republicans gathered for a march and a wreath-laying ceremony.

The man clad in a balaclava and black combat gear who read a statement on behalf of the Real IRA said its campaign of violence would continue.

"The IRA will continue to attack Crown Force personnel, their installations, as well as British interests and infrastructure," he said.

The group is responsible for a series of attacks including the murder of soldiers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar outside Massereene army base in Antrim in 2009 only hours before the men were to fly out to begin a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said senior officers had taken the decision to run "a low-key operational response to the event".

They added: "Any alleged breaches of criminal law reported to police or coming to our attention will be rigorously and thoroughly investigated.

"The PSNI work to ensure that all their actions are appropriate, proportionate and lawful.

"Our priorities are to protect the public, preserve public order, uphold the human rights of all and gather evidence of any wrongdoing."

The incident came a day after an Easter commemoration by mainstream republicans heard a call from Sinn Fein for a process of reconciliation.

Party chairman Declan Kearney told the rally at the republican plot in Milltown cemetery in west Belfast that violence was over, the IRA had left the stage and it was time to heal the wounds of the past.

In a message to dissident groups wedded to violence he said: "Make no mistake, there is no other IRA, here in Belfast, or anywhere else."

He added: "Some republicans oppose the peace process by militarist and political means. There is a political imperative upon us to attempt purposeful engagement with all republicans, and that includes those who oppose Sinn Fein."

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