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Show of strength New IRA Easter axe Easter commemoration over prison fears

Last month a republican group encouraged people to attend the Easter commemoration in apparent defiance of Covid health restrictions

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Creggan show of strength in 2018. Photo: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Creggan show of strength in 2018. Photo: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Creggan show of strength in 2018. Photo: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

The New IRA pulled the plug on its planned Easter show of strength for fear of more men ending up behind bars.

The Sunday World understands that dissident chiefs halted plans for a full terror ceremony at Derry City cemetery commemoration event after fears the PSNI would launch a full-scale arrest operation.

A source said: “The plan was for a full colour party and a show of strength, but the backlash in the press and from politicians put too much focus on them.

“The last thing they need right now is to have more members locked up or on strict bail conditions.

“Senior republicans wanted to show that the New IRA hasn’t gone away, that it still has power and it’s still very much in operation.

“But it was agreed last week that going forward with such a public display would inevitably lead to a heavy press and police presence would only end one way.”

Last month a republican group encouraged people to attend the Easter commemoration in apparent defiance of Covid health restrictions.

The Derry 1916 Commemoration Committee said that it is encouraging people to wear face masks to the event.

However, the event was branded a “clear challenge to police by dissident republicans” by a DUP MLA.

The group said: “Join with us to honour those who gave their lives in Ireland’s freedom struggle and rededicate ourselves to the ongoing struggle for a 32 County Socialist Republic.

“Due to the ongoing Covid pandemic we encourage all those attending to wear face coverings.”

In 2018, the Derry 1916 Commemoration Committee’s illegal Easter Monday rally saw masked men march through the streets of Creggan as dozens of youths pelted the PSNI with bricks, bottles and petrol bombs.

A crowd of about 200 watched as a colour party of 14 people, dressed in paramilitary-style uniforms and with their faces partially covered, marched to the City Cemetery for speeches and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Republican plot.

Five men were arrested at the time.

The same year, eight men were arrested over a dissident republican march in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

The parade, organised by Republican Sinn Féin the political wing of the Continuity IRA, was held on March 31, 2018, as part of an Easter Rising commemoration.

During the colour party police clashed with masked demonstrators when they moved in to break up the parade as it made its way down the Levin Road in the town.

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Anniversary: Lyra McKee (PSNI/PA)

Anniversary: Lyra McKee (PSNI/PA)

Anniversary: Lyra McKee (PSNI/PA)

This year’s Derry event is being supported by Saoradh, although that dissident group has also arranged an online commemoration.

The Parades Commission said that no notification had been received for a parade for that specified location and date.

“The commission regulates parades and related protests. It has no responsibility for static events,” said a spokesperson.

“Unnotified parades and related protests are a matter for the PSNI.”

The Sunday World revealed last week how the commemoration show of strength was planned under the orders of the newly restructured New IRA army council.

A source also claimed that all units in the north had recently been briefed on plans to carry out a number of deadly attacks in the coming months.

This month marks two years since the New IRA murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

The 29-year-old was shot dead during rioting in the Creggan estate on April 18, 2019. No-one has been convicted over her murder.

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