Police probe republican’s ‘armed struggle legitimate’ comments

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Police have confirmed they are investigating comments made during a dissident republican commemoration event.

In his speech to a crowd in Co Armagh, hardline republican activist Dee Fennell claimed that armed struggle against British rule was “legitimate”.

A police spokesman said: “PSNI are aware and are investigating.”

Mr Fennell was addressing a memorial organised by the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association in Lurgan on Easter Sunday.

In the address, which was recorded and posted online, he said: “Armed struggle must be a contributory factor to a wider struggle.

“The use of arms prior to 1916 was legitimate. The use of arms in Easter 1916 was legitimate. The use of arms after 1916 was totally legitimate.

“In the existing political context of partition, illegal occupation and the denial of national self determination, armed struggle, in 2015, remains a legitimate act of resistance.”

The small crowd, including young children, also applauded and cheered when he referred to the murder of Lord Mountbatten in 1979.

“The only welcome the IRA gave a member of the British royal family was delivered on a boat off the coast of Sligo,” he added.

Mr Fennell, from the nationalist Ardoyne area of north Belfast is a spokesman for the Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective which vehemently opposes Orange Order parades.

He also called for those at the ceremony to consider whether they believed they could have a more “active” role within republicanism.

Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson branded the comments disgusting.

The Upper Bann MLA said she had written to the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton to report the matter.

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?

“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.”