Saoradh

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Saoradh
ChairpersonBrian Kenna
Vice-chairpersonMandy Duffy
National SecretaryStephen Murney
FoundedSeptember 2016
HeadquartersDerry, Ireland
Paramilitary wingNew IRA (alleged)
IdeologyIrish republicanism
Dissident republicanism[1]
Revolutionary socialism
Anti-capitalism
Anti-imperialism
Political positionFar-left[2][3]
SloganUnfinished Revolution
Website
saoradh.irish Edit this at Wikidata

Saoradh (Irish: [ˈsˠiːɾˠə], "Liberation") is a far-left political party and pressure group[4] formed by dissident Irish republicans in 2016, which is active in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland and independent commentators describe the party as being close with the New IRA, although Saoradh themselves deny this.[5]

Traditional variation of the sunburst flag[6]

History[edit]

Foundation[edit]

The party was founded in 2016[3] by former members of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Republican Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Socialist Party and others.[2]

The 12 person national executive of the party sat at the top table under a banner of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation,[7]which was composed of republican activists, including:

  • Nuala Perry (vice-chairperson and former Provisional IRA prisoner),
  • Kevin Murphy (a former Real IRA prisoner),
  • Risteard Ó Murchú,[8]
  • Sharon Rafferty,
  • Dee Fennell,
  • David Jordan,
  • Mandy Duffy, a sister-in-law of Colin Duffy.

A third of the executive was female, while out of all 150 in attendance, men outnumbered women 10 to 1.[9] Prominent republican dissidents were in attendance these included:

  • brothers Colin and Paul Duffy,
  • Sharon Girvan,
  • Thomas Ashe Mellon.[10]

A message of support from veteran republican leader Billy McKee was read out and a statement from New IRA prisoners expressing their support for the party was read out by Mellon.[11]

David Jordan said being elected chairman of the party was "humbling, daunting, intimidating yet empowering".[12] Chair of the Association of Palestinian Communities in Scotland (APCS), Issam Hijjawi, also spoke.[13]

On the same day Saoradh issued the following press release:

Today, Saturday the 24th of September 2016, we a significant collective of Irish Republican activists, who for a number of years have acted autonomously, have after a number of years of debate, consultation and organisation today in Ard Fheis organised, constituted and launched a Revolutionary Irish Republican Party, the Party's name is Saoradh.

Saoradh believes that Ireland should be governed by the Irish People with the wealth and wealth producing mechanisms in the ownership of the Irish People. This can not happen while British imperialism undemocratically retains control of Irish destinies and partitions our nation, this cannot happen while a neo-colonial elite in a subservient supposed indigenous administration sell’s the nation’s labour and natural resources to international capital.

Saoradh does not believe that British imperialism or capitalist exploitation can be confronted in the structures they have created to consolidate their undemocratic control of the Irish nation. As such we believe any assembly claiming to speak for the Irish People without being elected by the united people of the Irish nation to be illegal. Saoradh will seek to organise and work with the Irish People rather than be consumed and usurped by the structures of Ireland’s enemy's,

Standing on a long and proud revolutionary Irish Republican history of resistance, inspired by the actions and words of Tone of Connolly, of Mellows, of Costello and of Sands, upholding the founding documents of our forefathers – the 1916 proclamation, the declaration of independence and the democratic programme of the first Dáil, Saoradh hereby declares its commitment to the unfinished revolution, the liberation of Ireland and the social emancipation of the Irish People.

Saoradh's emblem combines the sunburst flag with the socialist red star, a pike, and the three national colours of the Republic of Ireland: green, white and orange.

Reaction to its formation[edit]

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon said it was "the first step in a journey that every militant group in the history of the Irish republican tradition has ever taken" and that "they should now take steps two, three and four to avoid unnecessary and unwanted violence that the people of Ireland have rejected at every opportunity".[14]

Democratic Unionist Party MLA Lord Maurice Morrow said that the action showed that dissidents "realise they are failing to gain support in their campaign and have moved into the political sphere". He added that it "will be very interesting to see what, if any, support this new political party will have".[14]

Ulster Unionist Party declared that it welcomed anyone engaging in the political process but that Saoradh have adopted "a tired and outdated abstentionist programme that has failed in the past and will fail again".[14]

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said that former IRA members have for years been "lauded as statesmen and elevated to the highest offices in the land after gaining their status off the back of the Provisional IRA terror campaign". He asked, "Will Saoradh follow the trajectory of Sinn Féin and gain politically from violence?"[14]

Sinn Féin said that its vision and analysis have won the support of half a million voters and that they "encourage genuine political debate within republicanism".[14]

In November 2016, the wife of IRA volunteer James "Junior" McDaid (shot dead by the 25th Light Regiment Royal Artillery in 1972) criticised Saoradh after they named their Derry offices on Chamberlain Street "Junior McDaid House" after her husband. She said nobody had invited her or told her the branch would be named after him, and added that she didn't know if he would have approved of it.[15][16]

Since 2019[edit]

In April 2019, it was announced that the headquarters, Junior McDaid House, was closed as they had been given notice to quit by their landlord, Tracey Murray.[17]

In August 2019, Saoradh chairman Brian Kenna announced that a continuation of dissident republican violence is "inevitable".[18] That same month, the group held demonstrations in Glasgow.[19]

Shooting of Lyra McKee[edit]

On 18 April 2019, investigative journalist Lyra McKee was murdered while observing rioting in the Creggan district of Derry. Mobile phone footage was released showing a masked gunman, a member of the New IRA,[20] opening fire with a handgun.[21] Saoradh subsequently released a statement that "a republican volunteer attempted to defend people from the PSNI/RUC", after an "incursion" by "heavily armed crown forces", and that McKee was "killed accidentally".[22] This was interpreted by TheJournal.ie as the group "defend[ing] the actions of those responsible".[23]

Saoradh held an Easter Rising commemoration parade in front of the General Post Office, the main site of the Rising in 1916, in Dublin on Easter Saturday, 21 April, less than three days after the death of McKee. The parade featured members dressed in paramilitary-style clothing. It was condemned by Ministers in the current Dáil Éireann government with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan labeling it as "disturbing".[23]

Four days after the shooting, friends of McKee gathered in protest at Saoradh's headquarters, Junior McDaid House, and used red paint to place handprints on the walls of the building to "show that the blood is on their hands".[24][25]

By 9 October 2021 a dozen people associated with Saoradh had been charged in connection with McKee's shooting and New IRA-related terror offences.[20]

Clashes with the authorities[edit]

Interaction with police[edit]

In April 2019, Saoradh's national chairman Brian Kenna was subject to a stop and search by six armed police in Dungiven whilst returning to Dublin following a party meeting in Derry. The party released a statement stating it will "stand firm in [its] opposition to the current harassment, intimidation and political repression" of its members, and that the authorities are "fearful of our growth and realise that our political narrative is being accepted by the community."[26]

In November 2019, five properties associated with Saoradh including the party's headquarters, were raided by anti-terror police allegedly on the basis that an illegal lottery was being run. Saoradh called the raid an attempt to "thwart community activism and the support network for current Republican Prisoners and their dependents" and claimed that since its inception in 2016, harassment of Irish republicans by security forces had been "stepped up".[27] In the raid a sum of money and lottery paraphenalia was seized, and a 31-year-old man was arrested and later released on bail.[28][29]

Alleged interaction with intelligence services[edit]

In May 2019, The Irish News reported that former Antrim and Derry hurler Kevin Collins was approached on two separate occasions by British intelligence officers with English accents whilst holidaying abroad. Collins, a former Saoradh member, alleged that the agents tried to pressure him into infiltrating republican groups by claiming a "prominent republican" was out to get him and that they offered a large sum of cash as leverage. He also claimed that threats of violence were made by the agents against his family members and that during one of the occasions he was held at gun point and led to a room by Spanish police in at a Majorcan airport.[30]

In February 2020, whilst returning from an Ireland-Palestine solidarity event in Bristol, National Executive member, Paddy Gallagher alleged that he was subjected to an MI5 recruitment approach at Bristol Airport. He claimed he was led to a small room where two people claiming to be of "British Military Intelligence" attempted to recruit him as a human intelligence asset.[31]

In February 2021, it was reported by Saoradh that local residents had made them aware of a "covert listening device" disguised as a rock that was discovered at an allotment in the Ballymagowan area in Creggan, Derry. It was allegedly placed by a male dressed in "dark clothing", which the group claimed was at a time of "widespread covert activity by British military intelligence" in the area.[32]

Policies and ideology[edit]

Saoradh seeks to establish a 32-county socialist republic across the island of Ireland, regarding Northern Ireland's status in the UK as an "illegal occupation". It is opposed to the current power-sharing government in Northern Ireland and is highly critical of Sinn Féin, whom the party's former chairman David Jordan describes as "false prophets who have been defeated and consumed by the very system they claim to oppose". The party also views the government of the Republic of Ireland as illegitimate as it is not elected by the people of the whole island. As part of this, Saoradh supports the release of all republican prisoners. It is thus abstentionist.[33] It may contest future elections, but candidates elected to Dáil Éireann or the Northern Ireland Assembly will not take their seats.[34] As of November 2019 it has produced one position paper, on Brexit, and is discussing internally its stance on other issues.[35]

Alleged links to militant republicanism[edit]

Various media sources claim that the party is linked to militant republicanism,[36] with the BBC describing them as the "most public face" of its remnants in the province.[20] The Belfast Telegraph refers to Saoradh as the "political wing" of the New IRA,[37] a group formed in 2012 by the merger of the Real Irish Republican Army with several other paramilitary groups.[38] The Police Service of Northern Ireland describe the party as the "political voice" of the New IRA and indicate that there is much membership overlap between the two groups.[20]

According to Vice UK, Saoradh "vehemently" denies involvement with any paramilitaries and takes issue with the term "dissident Republican".[2] Shortly after the killing of journalist Lyra McKee, Saoradh released a statement that it was not linked to the New IRA nor any other organisation.[39] Saoradh has the support of New IRA members in prison.[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Trumbore; Owsiak (2019). "Brexit, the Border, and Political Conflict Narratives in Northern Ireland". Irish Studies in International Affairs. 30: 195. doi:10.3318/isia.2019.30.12. S2CID 214476378.
  2. ^ a b c Doyle, Paulie (22 March 2019). "Understanding the 'New IRA', Who Sent Explosives Around the UK". VICE UK (Motherboard). Vice Media. Archived from the original on 24 April 2020. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b Murray, Gemma (19 February 2020). "Saoradh release statement claiming Sinn Fein not under threat - after Michelle O'Neill asks all members to be 'vigilant'". The News Letter. Belfast: JPIMedia. Archived from the original on 18 October 2021. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  4. ^ Mooney, John (6 October 2021). "Suspected New IRA leader arrested on terror charges in Lyra McKee murder investigation". The Times. The News Building, London. Archived from the original on 19 October 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  5. ^ "New IRA says border infrastructure would be 'legitimate target for attack'". 16 October 2019.
  6. ^ Andrews, Ann (1 April 2015). Newspapers and Newsmakers: The Dublin Nationalist Press in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781781387450 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "New 'revolutionary' republican party Saoradh launched". 26 September 2016.
  8. ^ Young, Connla (18 October 2016). "Ex-republican prisoner hits out over PSNI stop and search of daughter's schoolbag". irishnews.com. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Hardline republicanism shows public face with Saoradh launch at swish hotel". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Thomas Ashe Mellon". 6 May 2019.
  11. ^ "Why lax bail conditions are letting thugs like Damien Fennell laugh at legal system". Belfasttelegraph. BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Tyrone dissidents to the fore of new republican party". ulsterherald.com. 30 September 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  13. ^ "Dissident party Saoradh opens office in Belfast". Belfasttelegraph. BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Saoradh 'follows well trod path'".
  15. ^ "IRA Volunteer Junior McDaid's wife hurt by Saoradh snub".
  16. ^ McDaid House will allow us to rebuild: Mellon
  17. ^ "Doors closed at Saoradh HQ in Derry following notice to quit". 30 April 2019.
  18. ^ "Saoradh leader says continuation of dissident republican violence 'inevitable'". Belfasttelegraph.
  19. ^ "Militant Irish Republican group linked to New IRA spark fury in Glasgow". 28 April 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d Vardy, Emma (8 October 2021). "Lyra McKee arrests highlight radicalisation, police warn". BBC News. London: British Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 18 October 2021. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  21. ^ "Journalist shot dead in Derry during rioting in the city". BBC News. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  22. ^ "New IRA and Saoradh face backlash over Lyra McKee murder". The Guardian. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  23. ^ a b Duffy, Rónán (22 April 2019). "Should new laws be enacted to prevent paramilitary-style marches?". TheJournal.ie. Dublin: Distilled Media. Archived from the original on 18 October 2021. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  24. ^ "Protest: Friends of Lyra McKee tell members of Junior McDaid House 'there is blood on your hands'". 22 April 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  25. ^ "Friends of Lyra McKee place red handprints at Saoradh HQ in Derry". Belfast Telegraph. 22 April 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  26. ^ Mullan, Kevin (15 April 2019). "Saoradh chair Brian Kenna stopped after Derry meeting". Derry Journal. Derry: Derry Journal Newspapers. Archived from the original on 18 October 2021. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  27. ^ Mullan, Kevin (8 November 2019). "Saoradh claim Derry anti-terror police operation targeted 'decades old one pound lotto' for republican prisoners". Derry Journal. Derry: Derry Journal Newspapers. Archived from the original on 13 October 2021. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  28. ^ McKinney, Seamus (8 November 2019). "Police search Saoradh HQ in 'illegal lottery' probe". The Irish News. Belfast. Archived from the original on 14 October 2021. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  29. ^ Moore, Aoife (7 November 2019). "Arrest after anti-terror cops investigating illegal lottery raid Derry Saoradh offices". Belfast Telegraph. Belfast: Independent News & Media. Archived from the original on 14 October 2021. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  30. ^ Young, Connla (24 May 2019). "Former Derry and Antrim hurler Kevin Collins 'fears for life after MI5 attempts to recruit as informer'". The Irish News. Belfast. Archived from the original on 14 October 2021. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  31. ^ Mullan, Kevin (28 February 2020). "Derry Saoradh member claims Mi5 Bristol approach". Derry Journal. Derry: Derry Journal Newspapers. Archived from the original on 13 October 2021. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  32. ^ Quinn, Andrew (24 February 2021). "'Covert listening device in fake rock' discovered in NI allotment after man in dark clothes sighted in area". The News Letter. Belfast: JPIMedia. Archived from the original on 18 October 2021. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  33. ^ Hoey, Paddy (2019). "Dissident and dissenting republicanism: From the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement to Brexit". Capital & Class. 43: 73–87. doi:10.1177/0309816818818088. S2CID 158168107.
  34. ^ "Dissident republicans launch new political party". The Irish Times. 25 September 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  35. ^ Reinisch, Dieter (15 November 2019). "Opinion: I went to the Saoradh party conference to see where radical republicanism is going". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  36. ^ "Lyra McKee murder: Man bailed over rioting". 4 October 2021.
  37. ^ "New IRA boss Thomas Mellon uses hunger strike commemoration to shore up support". Belfasttelegraph.
  38. ^ Toner, John (24 July 2021). "Dee Fennell quits Saoradh". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  39. ^ Quinn, Andrew (2 May 2019). "Saoradh rejects link to 'New IRA' and denies any involvement in murder of Lyra McKee". newsletter.co.uk.
  40. ^ "PSNI monitor Saoradh Co Derry hunger strike parade". 4 October 2021.

External links[edit]