Taoiseach joins condemnation of Saoradh paramilitary parade

Participants in Saturday’s march are ‘pathetic cowards’, says Minister for Health

Members of Saoradh who marched in Dublin on Saturday afternoon on the  anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Photograph: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Members of Saoradh who marched in Dublin on Saturday afternoon on the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Photograph: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

 

The Taoiseach and Minister for Justice have condemned the Saoradh paramilitary march held in Dublin on Saturday.

Up to 200 members and supporters of the self-styled ‘revolutionary party’ joined an Easter 1916 commemoration at which a group in military uniforms and wearing berets and sunglasses marched down O’Connell Street.

Leo Varadkar said in the aftermath of the killing of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry on Thursday night, which has been blamed on the ‘New Ira’, the actions of those participating in the parade were “beneath contempt”.

“People North and South are mourning the death of a brave campaigner and journalist, Lyra McKee,” he said in a statement. “And on Sunday we marked the heroes of 1916 who put Ireland on the path to democracy. Others like Saoradh want to return Ireland to a violent and troubled past. We can never allow this to happen.”

Mr Varadkar said Saoradh “should apologise for their actions this weekend”.

“The right to assemble and march was won by the men and women of 1916 who fought for freedom and the democracy we have today. This weekend they dishonored their legacy and memory. It was an insult to the Irish people.”

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said “all right-thinking members of the public are sickened at the sight of a small number of people in paramilitary uniforms” particularly after the horrific killing of Ms McKee.

“These demonstrators do not represent the views of the Irish people who have been united for many decades in rejecting paramilitarism and are rightly revulsed at this display,” he said.

“I am informed that An Garda Síochána policed yesterday’s O’Connell Street event appropriately and with restraint in the circumstances. The gardaí have to continually use their training and judgment to balance the rights of people to demonstrate.”

Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe said those involved had “no support, no legitimacy and no place in our tolerant society”.

Retweeting a message from Minister for Health Simon Harris which described those involved in the march as “pathetic cowards” who have “no place in our democracy”, Mr Kehoe called for Saoradh to “disband and lay down their arms”.

Also speaking on RTÉ news on Sunday morning, Mr Kehoe underlined that Ógalaigh na hÉireann were the real army of the Irish State and that the actions of those who marched on Saturday were “absurd”.

McKee (29) was shot dead during riots on the Creggan estate in Derry on Thursday night. The PSNI have said they believe those responsible for her death are connected to the New IRA and two men have been arrested in connection with the shooting.

Self-styled “revolutionary party” Saoradh, which paraded in paramilitary style through the capital on Saturday, said “if republicans were involved” in the killing of McKee, “then the IRA should apologise”.

Mr Harris retweeted a photo of the Saoradh march with the message “Pathetic cowards. No place in our democracy”.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond, chair of the Seanad’s Brexit Committee, also condemned the protest, describing it as “a disgusting attempt at intimidation by a worthless organisation intent on bringing back misery”.

“The tragic events of Thursday night in Derry that resulted in the cold murder of the wonderful Lyra McKee were a flashback to a very dark period of our history that every decent soul on this island is determined to leave behind,” he said. “We must be clear that Saoradh and the dissidents they defend do not act in our name.”

Mr Richmond also tweeted an image which showed the Saoradh group had blocked his Twitter account. “Turns out @EireSaoradh are an awfully sensitive bunch. Cowards, thugs & clowns #notinourname,” he wrote.

Fianna Fáil TD for Meath East Thomas Byrne tweeted that the Saoradh march was “truly sick”. “No one has the right to imitate the army of the state,” he wrote. “Sick, sick, sick. Paramilitarism cannot be tolerated.”

Saoradh said on Friday that “British Crown Forces” were responsible for the Derry rioting on Thursday night and had “engineered confrontation with the community”. The statement appeared on the group’s website which has since been disabled.

Mr Flanagan said the Saoradh statement “added offence, gross offence, to the unlawful killing” and that its attempt to justify the killing was “somewhat sickening”. “There can be no justification of such an act.”

Mr Flanagan warned that the “very worrying trend across Northern Ireland, in Derry in particular, where there is something of the dangerous radicalisation of young people” was a “direct result” of the political vacuum in the region.