Justice Minister Naomi Long condemns show of strength for 40th anniversary of hunger striker Patsy O’Hara’s death with ‘no care whatsoever for what could have been potentially tragic consequences’

Justice Minister Naomi Long said the sight of masked men brandishing weapons is a dark and depressing hallmark of our past and that is where it must stay.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 5:54 pm

On the 40th anniversary of INLA man Patsy O’Hara’s death last Friday, around 11 masked INLA members, six of whom were carrying guns, gathered at his mural on Bishop Street in Londonderry.

Several shots were fired in front of a cheering crowd, with the gunmen picking up spent casings before walking off.

Footage of the event has been shared on social media.

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The Sinn Fein press office was asked for a comment on the event. None has been forthcoming.

Ms Long said: “It beggars belief that anyone would be as reckless as to fire shots in to the air near homes and where people, including young children, were standing close by.

“This was a planned and calculated act, with no care whatsoever for what could have been potentially tragic consequences if any of the bullets fired had ricocheted or strayed in to the crowd.

“There is simply no justification or excuse to bring guns on to the streets.

“The sight of masked men brandishing weapons is a dark and depressing hallmark of our past and that is where it must stay.

“What we saw on Friday evening was an utterly disgraceful and unacceptable incident, and those behind it simply do not care about who they hurt within their own community.

“I would urge anyone with any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, to contact police or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org.”

Earlier DUP MP Gregory Campbell said questions need to be answered “quickly” by the PSNI after a volley of shots was fired by armed and masked men beside a mural of INLA hunger striker Patsy O’Hara.

Mr Campbell said: “The PSNI need to answer whether they were aware an event like this was going to happen and if they did then what preparation did they make for the possibility if not probability that something like this could happen, especially given the type of person he (Patsy O’Hara) was and the organisation that he belonged to?

“If they had known an event was planned then they should have known it wasn’t to lay flowers and walk away peacefully.”

Mr Campbell added that the “usual response” to queries about paramilitary events is “they cannot disrupt the event for fear of disorder in a public place, they monitored the event and are preparing a case to send to the PPS”.

“But did they do that, have they got the evidence that they are now preparing and hopefully this time will get people in court unlike the situation with the Bobby Storey funeral,” added Mr Campbell

“Those are the questions the PSNI need to answer quickly because public confidence in policing is very low.”

And Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said: “Over recent weeks we have seen strident police action against people involved in protests across Northern Ireland.

“None of those incidents involved firearms yet the PSNI has spared no efforts in pursing those involved.

“Whilst the PSNI have said they are investigating last night’s incident, many people will be watching to see how rigorously this is pursued. There can be absolutely no justification for bringing firearms onto the streets in a blatant terrorist display.

“It is incumbent upon all political representatives in the city to condemn this incident. Unfortunately there are some parties and representatives who continue to glorify and celebrate terrorism. That sends out a dangerous signal to those who wish to replicate those tactics today.”

Earlier Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said: “An investigation is underway to establish who is responsible for this brazen armed show of strength that was carried out when it was still light outside, and in front of a significant crowd of people, including young children.

“The fact this occurred in the middle of a built-up area is even more shocking because any of the bullets fired could have ricocheted or strayed at any moment and into the nearby crowd, among which young children were present.

“It is extremely worrying these masked gunmen thought it was acceptable to carry out this reckless act and it illustrates the contempt they have for people in their community.

“What occurred was utterly appalling and has no place in today’s society, nor is there any justification for such scenes.

“Our officers have been in the Ardfoyle area conducting enquiries today, and I am appealing to anyone who can assist our investigation to get in touch. In particular, we want to hear from anyone who witnessed what occurred.

“Did you see the masked men in the area? Did you see how did they got there? Did you see how they left? Do you know who organised the event? Do you know what vehicles were in the area on Friday night and have you any CCTV, or do you know of any in the area? Did you capture what occurred on dash cam, or on your mobile phone?

“If you have information, I would urge you to get in touch with us and tell us what you know. The number to call is 101, quoting reference number 1969 of 21/05/21.”

A report can also be made online using our non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org/

Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones added: “The sight of armed and masked men on the streets of Derry/Londonderry is unacceptable. The recklessness of discharging firearms in a crowded residential area with young children actually present is beyond belief.

“That such actions would be applauded by onlookers is also deeply concerning.

“However, the public can be assured we will continue to work with communities and our partners in the Paramilitary Crime Task Force to disrupt those involved in such criminal activities and reduce the harm they cause in our communities.”

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