A dissident political party linked to the killers of Lyra McKee has accused the Mid Ulster Pride Committee of being “hypocritical” for welcoming the support of the PSNI for its first pride parade this summer.
The comments will be seen as provocative in that Saoradh is widely linked to the terror group which murdered journalist Lyra McKee, a member of the LGBT community, in Londonderry last year.
Saoradh spokesman Paddy Gallagher confirmed it had contacted Mid Ulster Pride.
“Saoradh contacted organisers of Mid-Ulster Pride for clarification as we have LGBTQ+ members in that area who had brought forward their concerns regarding Crown Force participation under the guise of the paramilitary PSNI,” he said.
“It is both ironic and hypocritical that the whole concept of Pride marches was born out of a violent protest against police violence and repression, yet the organisers of Mid-Ulster Pride are welcoming a police force that is a vital tool of repressive State apparatus against the Republican Community.”
“The role of the Crown Forces in continuing to deny truth and justice to the victims and families of State violence and collusion should also be recognised by organisers, not least because those victims included members of the LGBTQ Community.”
Rev Andrew Rawding, Vice Chairman of the newly formed Mid Ulster Pride Committee, offered to meet Saoradh to discuss their concerns.
“I am praying for Saoradh and would be happy to meet with them,” he said. “‘Saoradh’ means ‘liberation’ or ‘freedom’, which is at the heart of Mid Ulster Pride - freedom for the LGBT+ community to be themselves, express and celebrate their culture, in safety and without fear.”
He added: “Can Saoradh provide the safety, traffic management, and co-ordination of emergency services response that is required to keep all participating in Mid Ulster Pride safe and secure?”
A supporter of the recently launched Mid Ulster Pride had initially raised his concerns.
“I was contacted in recent days by a Saoradh officer who had seen my post about the protestors at the launch of Mid-Ulster Pride,” he said. “They wanted to talk to me about their ‘concern about crown forces presence in the pride parade’. I told them that as I’m not on that committee it’s not my responsibility. I want people to know I also told them that given Saoradh’s apologism for the NIRA killing of Lyra McKee I have nothing to say to Saoradh officials unless it’s about them distancing themselves from the NIRAs armed campaign.
“When Lyra was killed and I said that I would make it my mission to ensure people never forgot how Saoradh defended the NIRA and tried to say it was all the PSNI’s fault. I meant it when I said that; Saoradh tried to write Lyra’s death off as just a casualty of war, an unlucky statistic along the path to freedom. It wasn’t the shooters fault, it was the fault of the PSNI who they were shooting at.
“Lyra was a human being, a wonderful and loving person who had a bright future ahead of her. Her death was not an unavoidable tragedy of war, it was the act of fools who took guns onto the streets to pursue violence for the purpose of a ‘symbolic’ act of propaganda of the deed. There is no war on, the people of Ireland north and south are united in their commitment to the pursuit of peaceful means for political change. I urge all members of Saoradh, join the rest of republicanism in committing to peace and democracy.”
Mid Ulster District Commander, Superintendent Mike Baird said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland recognise the need to positively engage with a range of minority groups, including the LGBT+ community. Engagement is an important opportunity to address under representativeness, increase confidence amongst those communities and promote the importance of reporting hate crime.
“Hate crime must not be tolerated and victims should be encouraged and feel confident that when they contact police that their concerns will be taken seriously and responded to appropriately.”