Police are investigating an apparent dissident republican show of strength in Lurgan’s Kilwilkie estate.
Photographs of masked men posing with guns were published online, sparking the investigation and political condemnation.
The images, which were posted on the Republican Sinn Fein Facebook page on Thursday evening, show two men in kneeling positions with what appear to be assault rifles.
A message alongside states: “Volunteers of the Continuity Irish Republican Army pictured during the week patrolling the streets of Lurgan,”
Police district commander for the area Superintendent David Moore said a “criminal investigation is already underway”.
Supt Moore said: “Whilst it is incredibly easy for anyone to manipulate social media platforms or other features of the internet to gain some measure of publicity, when it is done in this manner it can constitute a serious criminal offence, and we have already begun the work necessary to establish the facts, and bring those responsible for criminal acts to justice.”
He has appealed for anyone with information on this incident, or other social media posts of a similar nature, to contact them immediately.
He added: “The contempt in which these people hold everyone in our society, their well-documented recklessness and the futility of their actions, is not masked in any way by the posting of a photograph on Facebook. The community in Lurgan and across the whole of Northern Ireland should remember that our determination to keep people safe is greater than their determination to do people harm. We are more determined than ever to keep people safe by working with the community, and not, as in the case of those behind this stunt, against it.”
Upper Bann DUP candidate David Simpson has said it is important that the police investigate the appearance of so-called dissident republican ‘patrols’ in Lurgan.
“I would congratulate the police for the action taken against hate speech in the Lurgan area over Easter. It is clear that dissident republicans are attempting to exert some level of control within Lurgan, and posts on social media within the last 24 hours include pictures of armed and masked men purportedly ‘patrolling’ in Lurgan,” he said.
“The entire community must take a stand against such organisations and their attempt to get a grip on communities right across Northern Ireland. Unfortunately not all political parties were able to clearly condemn the promotion and hatred espoused in Lurgan on Easter Sunday,” Mr Simpson added.