Saturday 21 September 2019

Philip Ryan: 'Sinn Féin's refusal to roundly condemn attacks linked to dissidents is worrying'


Dáil discussion: Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Dáil discussion: Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

There was a time when Sinn Féin would be the most vocal opponents of any violence perpetrated by groups of individuals with links to dissident republicans.

It was important for the party to condemn the actions of Provisional IRA splinter groups so as to move on from the violence of The Troubles.

With this in mind, it is interesting to observe the party's reaction to events in Stokestown, Co Roscommon.

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But before that it should be noted the video circulating of people being evicted from a farm by a private security firm was disturbing viewing to say the least.

No one would wish this to happen to a neighbour, or anyone for that matter. It is undoubtedly a difficult time for farmer Mr McGann and his siblings. But, with that said, there is an unpaid debt at the centre of all this.

In the video of the eviction, the person filming tells one of the security guards he should be ashamed to be Irish. The security guard responds that he is not Irish, he is British. The person filming calls him a "British b*****d".

What happened after the eviction, however, is also disturbing. In the early hours of Sunday morning, at least 20 masked men showed up to the farmhouse and assaulted the security guards - with baseball bats and blows to the head, torso and legs - who had taken control of the property after the eviction.

Several of the security guards were hospitalised, their vehicles were torched and one of their dogs had to be put down. Gardaí believe some of those involved - but not all it should be said - are linked to dissident republican crime gangs.

Since the weekend, Sinn Féin has sought to exploit the situation in Roscommon.

The party's justice spokesperson, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, has brought forward legislation which would regulate private security firms.

It is a worthwhile proposal and the Government signalled its interest in discussing the bill.

On RTÉ One's 'Morning Ireland' yesterday, Mr Ó Laoghaire described the Roscommon eviction as an "outright disgrace" and said there was "great frustration" in the area. When asked to condemn the reprisal attack over the weekend, Mr Ó Laoghaire said the incident "wasn't to be condoned", and "violence won't resolve the situation". He added "clearly feelings are running very high" and said he would "appeal for calm". He did not say the reprisal attack was a disgrace.

On Monday, Ógra Shinn Féin, the party's youth wing, staged a protest in a branch of the bank believed to be behind the eviction.

Party members held placards and chanted "homes for need, not for greed". Again, no mention of the equally horrific attack - linked to dissidents - in the early hours of Sunday morning.

In the Dáil during Leaders Questions, Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty said the eviction was "appalling" and described the security guards involved as "thugs" and "henchmen".

After his contribution, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar noted Mr Doherty had not condemned the revenge attack.

Brexit has damaged Ireland's relationship with Britain. Sinn Féin's demand for a Border poll has exacerbated the tensions. For the sake of Anglo Irish relations and indeed the security of the State, it would serve Sinn Féin well to loudly condemn any violence carried out by groups with links to dissident republicans.

Irish Independent

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