Members of a dissident republican group have accused mainstream republicans of intimidating local bar owners who agreed to host a prisoners’ fundraiser on behalf of the group.
Republican Sinn Féin claim three bars they tried to hire in recent weeks for a prisoners’ welfare fundraiser initially agreed but later pulled out after coming under pressure, they claim, from pro-agreement republicans.
Geraldine Taylor has called on ex-republican prisoners to speak out against the ban on prisoners welfare functions.
“Whatever members of the provisional movement think of us, however much they disagree with our current stance, they should remember that many of them were once political prisoners themselves,” she said.
“We were even denied the use of an ex-prisoners club, a place run by people who once suffered at the hands of the British prison regime themselves.”
Republican Sinn Féin represent the Continuity IRA prisoners currently held in Maghaberry and Magilligan jails.
“The prisoners who are in jail at the moment are there for their beliefs, they are political prisoners and as such republicans – whatever their current political stance – should be supporting their plight.
“In the most recent case we were told by the owner of a local bar that he had came under pressure and could not to allow us the use of their premises.
“This boycott against our members is despicable and those responsible for this vendetta against our prisoners and their families should be ashamed of themselves.”
Geraldine Taylor added: “Sinn Féin and the provisional movement know where they are going – straight to the policing board and Stormont. However, they would do well to remember their past.
“Many of them were once political prisoners themselves and were glad of the support given to them and their families by prisoners’ welfare groups over the years.
“Unfortunately they seem intent on denying our prisoners the same small grain of hope and support.”