By Rob Hastings
The Real IRA warned yesterday that it planned to kill more police in Northern Ireland and disrupt the Queen’s historic visit to Ireland. At a rally in Londonderry to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule, a masked member of the dissident republican group told supporters that police would be considered “as liable for execution as anyone, regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation”. In a statement, the group also branded the Queen a war criminal ahead of her first visit to the Republic from 17 to 20 May.
It called on “any young nationalist who may have been sold the lie” that the Police Service of Northern Ireland had been reformed and was non-political to think again. “Those who think they are serving their community are in fact serving the occupation and will be treated as such,” the statement said.
The rally, held by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, came three weeks after PC Ronan Kerr, 25, was killed by a nationalist car bomb in Omagh, Co Tyrone. The masked Real IRA man formed part of a colour party of seven people, all dressed in full paramilitary uniform. Between 200 and 300 people attended the event, which was monitored by a police helicopter.
The Real IRA statement said the Queen’s visit was an insult that should be resisted by “all self-respecting Irishmen and women”, and was an attempt to “further the selfish interests of a self-serving elite”. “The Irish people will not capitulate,” it added. “The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil. We will do our best to ensure she and the gombeen [usurer] class that act as her cheerleaders get that message.”
Mark Durkan, the MP for Foyle and former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), condemned the speech, saying: “The Real IRA … is morally and politically bankrupt when they are driven to attack and threaten nationalists who want to serve the community and their country.”
Police aross the province were kept on high alert all weekend. They fear an attack is imminent and have urged the public to remain vigilant. Dissident groups are said to be keen to use the royal visit to Dublin to their advantage, invoking hatred of the monarchy as a way to stir up deep-seated resentment at political division of the island.
Earlier, three men appeared in court in Newry, Co Down, charged with possessing guns and preparing for terrorism. Brian Sheridan, 34, Brian Cavlan, 35, and Dominic Dines, 39, were held on Friday in South Armagh. In later searches in the same area, police found explosives and bomb-making equipment.