Police event cancelled over Saoradh protest threat

Guildhall
Image caption The conference was set to take place in the Guildhall in Londonderry on Wednesday

A Londonderry youth club has cancelled an event involving police after a party representing dissident republicans threatened to protest.

The Long Tower Youth and Community Centre had planned to hold a conference for young people in the Guildhall.

But the political party, Saoradh, said it would protest at the presence of the PSNI.

The club said it had tried to discuss it with Saoradh, but was unsuccessful and had "no option but to cancel".

'Unfortunate'

PSNI Supt Alan Hutton said: "This event was a fantastic opportunity for young people to express their views on issues that matter to them to a range of partners and it is unfortunate that the whole day had to be cancelled.

"Our young people's voices need to be heard.

"It would have been a welcome opportunity for young people to meet their local police officers, ask us questions, share their concerns and frustrations and to get to know us and the job we do."

Saoradh, which means liberation in Irish, was founded in 2016.

It campaigns for the release of all republican prisoners, and has the support of prisoners from the dissident group referred to as the New IRA in Maghaberry and Portlaoise prisons.

The Long Tower Youth and Community Centre said attempts were made to engage "in dialogue with the particular organisation who have a issue with this event as they have vowed to stage a protest.

"This request for engagement has been refused. Therefore we have no option but to cancel this event."

Image caption About 20 people in paramilitary-style uniforms leading an Easter parade organised by Saoradh in Derry in 2017

Saoradh spokesman Paddy Gallagher said youth clubs "should be a neutral environment for children to flourish, develop and associate with their peers. Not to be used as a political mechanism to adopt a broader acceptance of so called policing and normalisation within the Six Counties."

The party said they had been willing to engage with the youth club "on the basis they cancelled the event first, otherwise our protest would go ahead as planned."

'Condemns'

Speaking on Thursday, Chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board Anne Connolly said: "There are no circumstances where anyone should prevent such engagements and the board condemns any attempt to do so.

"We are committed to working with the PSNI and the community to ensure that people continue to engage with the police and feel safe in doing so."

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