The PSNI has confirmed it had advance notification of public re-enactments of “recent” PIRA terror attacks on the streets of Londonderry, carried out by masked men armed with replica weapons.
However, critics claim the event constitued the offence of ‘glorification of terrorism’ and that the recent gun attack in Las Vegas shows such use of automatic weapons is “nothing to be celebrated”.
The row arose after a “history tour” in Londonderry organised by the Spirit Of Freedom Republican Flute Band, in which masked men with replica weapons publicly acted out actual PIRA attacks from the Troubles.
The band’s Facebook page said the tour would include “some recent modern IRA operations in the area” and that band members will provide “street drama, dressed as armed volunteers etc to help authenticate some scenes along the way”.
East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said: “It is an attempt to glorify and sanitise the IRA terrorist campaign ... It is in direct conflict with Sinn Fein’s stated political position on a peaceful way forward for Northern Ireland.”
Asked if it investigates loyalist and republican offences under the ‘glorification of terrorism’, the PSNI replied that it takes any such complaints “seriously” and that such offences will be “thoroughly investigated”.
The PSNI added that it was “given advance notification of historical walking tour in parts of the city last Saturday, September 30, and were advised it would involve imitation firearms and characters dressed in period costumes”.
But TUV leader Jim Allister said the PSNI should have stepped in. “The glorification of terrorism is a criminal offence. The photos of what took place are already in the public domain so for the PSNI to give such a bland response to the News Letter, without any indication that they are investigating, suggests a hands off approach when it comes to Sinn Fein and their fellow travellers in the IRA.
“Recent events in Las Vegas remind us all that the use of automatic weapons by killers is nothing to be celebrated.”
Similarly, community relations activist and lawyer Trevor Ringland said there was adequate legislation to counter such displays by loyalists and republicans. “It is just that the police may not feel they would have adequate support from the two main political parties to enforce it.”
UUP MLA Doug Beattie asked if the band had any plans to re-enact “the strapping of people to a vehicle borne IED” – a reference to the IRA murder of Patsy Gillespie in the city.
UUP councillor Mary Hamiton, whose brother-in-law was murdered by the IRA and who was injured by an IRA bomb, said: “Many people in this city still live with the scars – both mental and physical – of the IRA’s activities. I should know, for I am one of them.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said the pictures were from a history tour dating from St Columba to “the recent conflict and peace process”.
“The organisers informed the police in advance that the tour would include historical re-enactments with period costume and that imitation firearms, which cannot be fired, would be on display.”