PSNI condemn INLA firing of guns to commemorate hunger striker

Suspected INLA members fired shots into air on 40th anniversary of Patsy O’Hara’s death

Screenshot from video of INLA display in front of mural of hunger striker Patsy O’Hara, off Bishop Street, in Derry. Credit: @shaneodoherty/Twitter

Screenshot from video of INLA display in front of mural of hunger striker Patsy O’Hara, off Bishop Street, in Derry. Credit: @shaneodoherty/Twitter

 

The firing of shots by masked men at a commemoration of Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) hunger striker Patsy O’Hara was a “brazen” armed show of strength, police have said.

At least 12 suspected INLA members, dressed in black, fired a number of volleys into the air in front of a mural of the republican during a gathering off Derry’s Bishop Street to mark the 40th anniversary of his death.

Video footage posted on social media shows the men – some armed with pistols – picking up spent casings before walking off to applause from onlookers during the incident just before 9pm on Friday.

Police described the gunfire as “reckless” and said bullets could have strayed or ricocheted into the assembled crowd, in the residential Ardfoyle area of Bishop Street, where children were also watching.

PSNI chief superintendent Darrin Jones, area commander for Derry City and Strabane, described the incident as “extremely worrying” and “utterly appalling”.

“An investigation is under way 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,” he said on Sunday.

“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.”

The PSNI carried out inquiries in the area on Sunday and appealed for witnesses.

“It is extremely worrying that 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,” said Mr Jones.

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

‘Unacceptable’

The sight of armed and masked men on the streets of Derry is “unacceptable”, the police chief insisted.

“The recklessness of discharging firearms in a crowded residential area with young children actually present is beyond belief,” he added.

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

Democratic Unionist Party MLA for the city, Gary Middleton, said people will be watching to see how “rigorously” the PSNI pursue those behind the gunfire.

“There can be absolutely no justification for bringing firearms on to the streets in a blatant terrorist display,” he said.

“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.”

Patsy O’Hara (23) died after 61 days on hunger strike, on May 21st, 1981. From Bishop Street in Derry, he was one of ten republicans to die in the protest.