Gardai criticised for ‘denigrating’ funeral of Republican

July 22, 2013

Gardai have been criticized for the heavy presence at the funeral of a former Silverbridge man on Wednesday.

Seamus McKenna (58) died in hospital on Saturday last from injuries sustained after falling from a roof while working at a school near Dundalk.

Mourners accused Gardai of ‘denigrating’ his funeral, which was held in St. Mary’s Church, Ravensdale.  It’s believed the massive police presence was to ensure there would be no ‘show of strength’ display at the prominent republican’s funeral.

McKenna’s comrades from the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) said what should have been a quiet and serene ceremony was “cruelly transformed into a scene of martial law as the Free State police instead used the occasion to flex their collective muscle and display to local republicans the various means of ‘crowd control’ at their disposal”.

Checkpoints were set up around the rural village of Ravensdale ahead of the arrival of riot squad officers.

Describing the scene, a spokesperson for RNU said: “Mounted officers, masked and wearing helmets patrolled up and down the road as a chopper hovered not too far overhead. Later, paramilitary styled officers walked the roads with caps and flak jackets emblazoned with ‘Armed Response Unit’, randomly stopping cars, questioning their occupants and searching at will.

“During the Mass, dozens of armed police officers took up position in the churchyard itself, exceeding even the RUC in their tactics of funeral oppression which were practised against Republicans all too many times in the past, and which it is clear the Gardai in Ravensdale were keen to emulate or even overtake.”

Criticising the need for such exaggerated demonstration of policing, the spokesperson continued: “Seamus was an ex Republican prisoner, having served several terms inside, and in keeping with the most basic protocol he was given a humble guard of honour made up of other Ex-POWs and their families in matching white shirts and black ties. Such would also be the case for a member of the GAA, a local politician or indeed a member of the Gardai.

“At no time was there ever a prospect of a ‘military display’ in Ravensdale, neither protocol nor Seamus’s family would have asked for a such a display, indeed at the request of the family, no national trappings were even displayed on the coffin as it made its way from the Church to Ravensdale graveyard.  None the less, heavily armed Gardai dressed in paramilitary-style caps and flak jackets insisted on stalking the coffin of Seamus McKenna to his final resting place, lining the roads to Ravensdale graveyard before crowding around the grave itself obscuring the view and greatly obstructing access to the final ceremony from those in attendance.

“The only ‘masked men’ ever due to appear at the funeral of Seamus McKenna were those of the Gardai Riot Squad who despite a ceremony which was entirely peaceful, insisted on filming mourners on a County Louth hillside on the orders of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

“Commissioner Martin Callinan claimed during the week that there was only ‘one force of law and order in Ireland’, yet his forces entered the quiet parish of Ravensdale with all the trappings, mechanics and attitudes of an occupying army. His message was a political one, ‘dissent from the status quo and we will stalk you even in death’, he used the sacred event of a Catholic funeral to deliver his message and for this he should be truly ashamed.

“Republican Network for Unity again extend our sympathy to the family of Seamus McKenna.  We congratulate the Republican guard of honour who despite deep provocation from the so-called ‘forces of law and order’ conducted themselves in an exemplary manner throughout. We also call on the Catholic Church and local elected representatives to speak up against what was a deliberate denigration of a funeral ceremony, for coarse political ends.”