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Rioters misused name of Irish Republicanism - Crowe

28 February, 2006


Dublin Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has described those who took part in the riots in Dublin City centre at the weekend as "a rag-bag who saw an opportunity to create havoc and took it." Speaking in the Dáil this evening, during statements on the disorder in Dublin City centre last Saturday, Deputy Crowe said, "it is important to point out that the riot should have no implications for the peace process."

He said, "The events in Dublin city centre last Saturday were an absolute disgrace. Those who took part misused the name of Irish republicanism and Irish nationalism but they were anything but Irish republicans or Irish nationalists in the real sense. This was a tiny and totally unrepresentative minority, a mixture of people on the fringes of micro-political groups, football hooligans and drink-fuelled opportunists. They were a rag-bag who saw an opportunity to create havoc and took it.

"Sinn Féin has been consistent on this issue since Willie Frazer and his so-called Love Ulster and FAIR groups first mooted it. And while we profoundly disagree with Frazer we chose not to oppose his groups' march down O'Connell Street -- notwithstanding the fact that we believe it was a deliberately provocative and insensitively organised March. We believe it is the right of all citizens of this island to march down the main thoroughfare of the capital city -- no matter what part of the island they live on. We also believe in the right of people to hold peaceful counter demonstrations. However, we believe that both of these rights come with responsibilities. On one hand marchers must not engage in sectarian or abusive behaviour and on the other that counter demonstrators must refrain from physically engaging with those marchers. Proper stewarding by those participating in the demonstrations and by the Gardai is crucial in this respect and it is clear that neither was in evidence on Saturday.

"Saturday's thuggery has also served to obscure the real nature of Mr. Frazer's group. In fact, those who engaged in the violence and destruction gave him exactly what he wanted. They played into his hands and allowed him to claim a moral high ground that he is not entitled to. This is a man who has gloried in the actions of loyalist death squads -- this is the man who only today is trying to blame the President for Saturday's trouble." ENDS

Full text of speech follows:

The events in Dublin city centre last Saturday were an absolute disgrace. Those who took part misused the name of Irish republicanism and Irish nationalism but they were anything but Irish republicans or Irish nationalists in the real sense. This was a tiny and totally unrepresentative minority, a mixture of people on the fringes of micro-political groups, football hooligans and drink-fuelled opportunists. They were a rag-bag who saw an opportunity to create havoc and took it.

Sinn Féin has been consistent on this issue since Willie Frazer and his so-called Love Ulster and FAIR groups first mooted it. And while we profoundly disagree with Frazer we chose not to oppose his groups' march down O'Connell Street -- notwithstanding the fact that we believe it was a deliberately provocative and insensitively organised March. We believe it is the right of all citizens of this island to march down the main thoroughfare of the capital city -- no matter what part of the island they live on. We also believe in the right of people to hold peaceful counter demonstrations. However, we believe that both of these rights come with responsibilities. On one hand marchers must not engage in sectarian or abusive behaviour and on the other that counter demonstrators must refrain from physically engaging with those marchers. Proper stewarding by those participating in the demonstrations and by the Gardai is crucial in this respect and it is clear that neither was in evidence on Saturday.

Sinn Féin made our position quite clear that we wanted people to ignore this march. We instructed our membership not to go anywhere near it. Martin McGuinness made this very point at the Dublin Sinn Féin AGM only two weeks ago. Deputy Ó Caoláin gave the Sinn Féin position on a recent appearance on Questions and Answers and I myself made a number of statements in advance of the march and up to the point of calling on people to desist while the rioting was still going on.

Saturday's thuggery has also served to obscure the real nature of Mr. Frazer's group. In fact, those who engaged in the violence and destruction gave him exactly what he wanted. They played into his hands and allowed him to claim a moral high ground that he is not entitled to. This is a man who has gloried in the actions of loyalist death squads -- this is the man who only today is trying to blame the President for Saturday's trouble.

I would like to defend the role of Dublin City Council. They bear no responsibility for the riot and their workers acted quickly to make the streets safe and clean again.

In conclusion it is important to point out that Saturday's riot should have no implications for the peace process. We are determined to see progress made in the peace process in the coming weeks and months. For Sinn Féin that includes outreach to the unionist community.

Unlike those who misused our National Flag last weekend, we take seriously the message of the Tricolour -- unity and equality between Orange and Green.

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