Masked men firing volley of shots for hunger striker shows terror groups ‘controlling the country’ says Omagh bomb victim

The latest armed show of strength in NI is a means of terror groups showing they can do as they like and are “controlling the country” a victims’ campaigner has said.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 9:24 am
The late Patsy O'Hara.

Claire Monteith from Omagh was speaking after masked men fired a volley of shots as part of an event marking the 40th anniversary of the death of INLA hunger striker Patsy O’Hara on Friday night in the Ardfoyle area of Londonderry.

Video footage circulating on social media showed 15 masked men, some carrying weapons, standing in front of a mural, as a volley of gunfire rings out.

PSNI Detective Sergeant Boyd said on Saturday evening: “Police are aware of shots fired in the area. An investigation is under way.”

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Claire’s brother, Alan Radford, was one of 29 people killed in the Real IRA bomb in Omagh 1998. She now campaigns in support of other victims.

Speaking of the show of strength, she said: “I see police are going to investigate but I expect a similar outcome as their probe into a bigger republican event recently.

“I always hoped for a better future but I just haven’t seen any change.”

She believes “everything is appeasement” for paramilitaries in how NI is governed.

“We may not have the levels of violence of the 1980s but there are obviously so many back room deals being done, just like the OTR letters.

“They can cover it with gold dust but it just doesn’t wash with innocent victims. Whether it is armed shows of strength or breaching Covid regulations, republicans like to show that they can just do what they want.

“These displays are just another intimidation tactic to let innocent victims know who is really controlling the country.”

If her children had been in that area they would have been “absolutely terrified” she added. “I don’t want this for my children’s future but the history of my past is part of them.”

She does not make any distinction between loyalists and republicans regarding such armed shows of strength.

“They are all thugs,” she added.

She contrasted recent events with the funeral of the father of a friend during the pandemic, a well-known RUC officer.

“Their family was headcounted into the cemetery by Omagh District Council – sacrifices had to be made – and then the gates were shut so no more family could go in.”

Former Policing Board member Ross Hussey asked of the volley of shots: “Where were the police? Will independent members of NI Policing Board ask questions? Will [the] chief constable answer them?”

Victims’ campaigner Ann Travers said of the volley of shots: “Seriously how can they justify it?”

Such actions in front of children will “encourage another generation” she said. She also asked what Michelle O’Neill thinks of such volleys and “parents bringing their children to watch?”

Former IRA bomber, Shane Paul Doherty from Londonderry, said: “Derry City’s old ghettos ... are already the seedbeds of New IRA & INLA resurgence, guns and gunfire on the streets – enlistment of young people – while PSNI leadership is embarrassing.” Sinn Fein and Foyle SDLP MP Colum Eastwood were invited to comment.

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