Calls for probe into graveyard speech backing armed struggle

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Police have been urged to probe comments made by a north Belfast republican during an Easter Commemoration ceremony in Lurgan.

Dee Fennell, who is a community activist with the Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective, told supporters gathered around IRA graves in St Coleman’s cemetery that the ‘armed struggle in 2015 remains a legitimate act of resistance’.

However, his comments have been slammed by local MP David Simpson who called for a police investigation into whether his remarks are in breach of anti-terror laws.

Mr Fennell was filmed during his speech for a YouTube video of the event.

He said: “We are occupied by a foreign government, a foreign army and her agencies. The use of armed struggle to oppose this is our right... while these undemocratic and unjust conditions exist so will the Irish Republican Army.”

Quoting Sinn Fein figure Maire Drumm, who was murdered by loyalists in 1976, Fennell added: “It isn’t enough to shout ‘up the IRA’, the important thing is to join the IRA. As you leave here today, ask yourself is it enough to support republicanism or could you be a more active republican?”

Referring to the IRA murder of Lord Mountbatten in 1979, he said: “The only welcome the IRA ever gave a member of the British Royal family was delivered on a boat off the coast of Sligo.”

DUP MP Mr Simpson said: “The video of Fennell’s speech has been posted online therefore I assume the PSNI has already considered its content.

“However, if it hasn’t been investigated, I have written to the chief constable and asked that these inflammatory statements be investigated. Fennell can be heard, in the presence of children, calling for people to join the IRA. The use of arms by anyone was never legitimate.”

And Ulster Unionist MLA and Upper Bann Westminster Candidate Jo-Anne Dobson branded the comments as disgusting and aimed at inciting people and demanded that the PSNI investigate.

Mrs Dobson said: “How can our society move forward in peace when individuals who are so consumed by hatred continue to preach the poisonous politics of the past?

“A video of this speech, delivered in Lurgan, has been posted widely on social media and like many other people, I have watched and listened to it in both shock and horror. During the speech he can be clearly heard praising the murderous activities of the IRA, gloating over the murder of Lord Mountbatten and describing their armed struggle in 2015 as ‘legitimate.’

“What struck me so much was that these comments were made in the presence of young children. The bile and hatred of the past being preached to our next generation can result in nothing but hurt and pain.

“The PSNI monitor and record legitimate parading by the Loyal Orders and in the past have chosen to investigate individuals for lesser comments than these. I have written to the Chief Constable to demand that the contents of this video are fully investigated and action taken.

“Lurgan has borne the brunt of dissident republican activity in recent years, including bombings and murders including that of PSNI Officer Stephen Carroll in March 2009. Like so many I want to see a bright future for the town, not one where it is dragged back into the mire of the past.”