Group that renamed Belfast streets after republicans ‘will never condemn any IRA acts’

A spokesman for a group which “renamed” a string of Belfast streets after republican paramilitaries at the start of the week has said that they will “never condemn any act by the IRA”.

Friday, 26th June 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 26th June 2020, 8:46 am
Image from the group's Twitter feed showing signs being put in place

Pól Torbóid also went on to say it was not the group’s intention to “enflame” moods with the publicity stunt, which saw makeshift road signs stuck up in parts of the city centre and on the front gates of Queen’s University Belfast.

Among the new signs were ones which bore the names of what the group describes as IRA “martyrs”: Joe McDonnell, Bobby Sands, Máire Drumm, and Kieran Doherty.

The group – called Lasair Dhearg (red flame) – says it was “formed from a small collective of community and political activists in mid-2017 [and] now has a presence in Ireland, England, Scotland, Sweden, Australia, the USA and more”.

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Its publicity material bears images of early 20th century trade unionist and paramilitary leader James Connolly, dead PIRA member Mairead Farrell, and Vladimir Lenin (as well as often featuring a Soviet-style hammer-and-sickle).

Among its policies is a pledge to counter the “normalisation” of the police, calling the PSNI a “heavily armed paramilitary militia unworthy of the support of the people”.

The head of Queen’s University Belfast’s Orange Society has called the “renaming” of Queen’s after IRA member Mairead Farrell “a blatant act of intimidation of Protestant and unionist students”, and said that it smacked of “triumphalism” because the sign was close to the spot where lecturer Edgar Graham was killed by the IRA.

This was put to Mr Torbóid, a 33-year-old west Belfast man, who told the News Letter Farrell’s name was chosen for Queen’s University’s gates because she was a student there.

He said: “The purpose of the campaign was in the context of the growing Black Lives Matter movement and how that’s sort of pulling out colonialism, the history of it and all that.

“We wanted to highlight in Belfast the history of colonialism and the figures that were responsible for and were tied in with that.

“We know those street signs wouldn’t have lasted long, but the purpose of it was to tease out that conversation ...

“In regards to contentiousness and, sort of, triumphalism, we’ve a full list of the place names on our website. You only have to look at them as well to see that there are deliberately none in areas that could be perceived as trying to be contentious.

“We wouldn’t be ones for going out to enflame.”

In the case of “renaming” Queen’s he said: “We’d never deliberately set out to intimidate. It’s not our cup of tea.”

Asked if he condemned the killing of Edgar Graham, he said: “We will never condemn any act by the IRA.”

Asked whether he means any act at all, he said: “I’m not familiar myself with the history of Edgar Graham, but any act committed by the IRA in order to free Ireland’s six counties, we won’t condemn it.”

Asked if this includes the murder of widowed mother-of-10 Jean McConville or the sectarian slaying of 10 Protestant labourers at Kingsmills, he said: “You can take that up with the individuals responsible.”

He refused to disclose how many members his group has.

PSNI inspector Natalie McNally said: “We received a report on Tuesday, June 23 , in relation to footage on social media showing people erecting temporary signs and we are making inquiries.”

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