PSNI District Commander issues major appeal on ‘brazen’ paramilitary show of strength after social media backlash

The PSNI District Commander for Derry City & Strabane Area has issued a major statement condemning “a brazen show of strength” that has prompted major debate on social media.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 4:11 pm

The PSNI District Commander for Derry City & Strabane Area has issued a major statement condemning “a brazen show of strength” that has prompted major debate on social media.

On Saturday evening the PSNI confirmed that they were investigating the incident, that took place on Friday night close to 9pm in the Ardfoyle area of Londonderry.

The even was to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Patsy O’Hara, the third of 10 prisoners to die in the 1981 hunger strike.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A large crowd gathered at a mural on Bishop Street honouring the Derry man.

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

Speaking on Saturday evening, Detective Sergeant Boyd said: “Police received a report at around 8.55pm last night in relation to a number of masked men in the Ardfoyle area of Derry/Londonderry. Police are aware of shots fired in the area. An investigation is underway.”

The news has caused sparked major commentary across social media.

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.

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.”

And former Policing Board member Ross Hussey asked: “Where were the police? Will independent members of NI Policing Board ask questions? Will [the] Chief Constable answer them?”

Justice Minister Naomi Long also said on Twitter she was asking the PSNI to investigate.

On Sunday afternoon the District Commander for Derry City & Strabane Area issued a major statement on the event.

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.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe

Editor