15 October 1998 Edition

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Saoirse train won't be derailed

by Laura Friel

Saoirse chairperson Martin Meehan has said the train scheduled to take Republican POWs to a rally in Dublin at the weekend will go ahead despite threats from the extremist loyalist faction Justice for Protestants group. ``We have in the past cancelled the train three times for reasons of sensitivity and security. In the light of the advancing political process we feel that the time is now right for the trian to proceed,'' said Meehan.

Loyalists close to the JFP faction said the group is determined to prevent a train carrying Republican prisoners stopping at the station in Portadown. Loyalists are threatening ``serious disruption on the Belfast-Dublin line''.

Calling on republicans everywhere to support the Dublin trip, Meehan described Saoirse as ``greatly saddened that a small unrepresentative group has decided to try and disrupt what is essentially a day out for a carnival type rally in Dublin. I would challenge the Justice For Protestant group to state clearly the reasons for the issuing of threats to the Saoirse train.''

Meehan said the group remained mindful of the concerns of victims and is committed to seeing the completion of the release programme. ``It is my belief that released prisoners will continue to play a crucial role in the oning process of securing a political settlement.''

Meanwhile a link has emerged between the Red Hand Defenders, a group claiming responsibility for a series of violent loyalist attacks, including the blast bomb killing of an RUC officer Frank O Reilly, and the DUP fronted Justice for Protestants group. ``There is a long line of instances of DUP involvement with loyalist paramilitaries,'' said SF Assembly member Alex Maskey, ``The most public include the launch of the Ulster Resistance Movement and the support given by the party to former LVF leader Billy Wright. The fact that a DUP councillor Jack McKee is the public face of a group that is part of the same organisation which has been involved in numerous attacks on property and at least one murder, is of no surprise to many nationalists and confirms what Sinn Fein has been saying for many years. It is time for the DUP to come clean and acknowledge publically their involvement in this group.''

As An Phoblacht goes to press, a loyalist band parade and rally in support of the Drumcree protest is scheduled to take place in Ballymoney, the home of the three Quinn children who were murdered by loyalist petrol bombers last July.

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