23 October 1997 Edition

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Constant harassment in Lurgan

``Where's fucking Rosemary Nelson now?... She'll not fucking get you out of this.'' These words were spoken by a member of the RIR as he dragged Lurgan woman Cristín McCauley from her car late at night on 7 October.

She was driving home when she was stopped at the RIR checkpoint. ``It was a frenzied attack,'' she said. ``One of the RIR dragged me from the car. He was screaming, he kept going on about my solicitor Rosemary Nelson. They made me stand at the side of the road and refused to get the RUC or give me a `gold card' (a unit identification card) when I asked for them.''

When at last the RUC did arrive Christín was allowed to go. She has since made a statement to her solicitor and a formal complaint about her treatment.

Coincidentally on the same night, Christín's solicitor Rosemary Nelson was stopped at another RIR checkpoint and harassed. She was returning from a meeting in a car driven by a friend when the car was stopped.

Ms Nelson will meet with UN Special Rapporteur Param Cumaraswamy this Friday to detail incidents of threat and harassment she has faced as she represents her clients.

Since the events on Garvaghy Road on 6 July the 3rd Battalion of the RIR, stationed in the North Armagh area, has been involved in numerous incidents of harassmant against the nationalist community, mainly in the Lurgan area.

One law firm alone has recorded over 30 complaints including serious assaults. One of the most serious occured on 8 July when a man from the Kilwilkie area was set upon by members of an RIR patrol.

That same night the RIR were going around Kilwilkie shouting, ``where is the wee bastard whose eye we shot out''; a reference to 13 year old Gavin McKenna who was almost blinded when in April this year a British soldier shot him in the face with a plastic bullet.

On 20 August a car belonging to a Lurgan republican had its tyres slashed while it sat in the grounds of Craigavon area hospital. An RIR patrol was in the area at the time.

One man who spoke to An Phoblacht, Paul Gillespie, said that he was stopped and detained for no reason on Saturday 11 October as he drove into Charles Street. A RIR foot patrol spotted the Lurgan man who has a history of harassment from this regiment. In February of this year during a week long curfew in Lurgan's Kilwilkie estate Gillespie was set upon by an RIR man who headbutted the young man in the face.

``There was no checkpoint,'' maintained Gillespie. ``One RIR man spotted me and signalled to one further up the street to stop me. They held me for about 30 minutes saying that I had not answered their questions properly. Although I had, and had complied when they searched the car''.

When the RIR refused to get the RUC and refused to return his license Gillespie drove home. Shortly afterwards the RUC arrived at Gillespie's home to return his licence.

Meanwhile both the RUC and RIR have targeted Collie Duffy since charges of killing two RUC men in Lurgan were dropped three weeks ago.

Duffy has been stopped and P checked a number of times and his car searched, but the most serious incident happened on Thursday 9 October on Lurgan's main street when an RIR man spotted him and walked into the road to block the car.

The RIR searched the car and then asked to carry out a body search which went without incident until the soldier doing the search ``yanked up my trousers by the belt. It was pretty sore around the testicle area,'' said Duffy.

Duffy's wife, daughter and a nephew who witnessed the assault were in hysterics especially as the car was surrounded by RIR, with another three manhandling Duffy.

Duffy was arrested and taken to Lurgan RUC barracks and held for two hours before being released.

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