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21/09/2021

‘IRA’ threaten to kill south Derry Travellers family

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By Eamon Sweeney A group of men claiming to be from the 'IRA' have threatened to kill a family of Travellers in the south Derry area. The incident took place last Thursday, July 26 and police have confirmed that an investigation into the incident is now underway. It is understood the incident is linked to the well publicised and ongoing issue of Travellers using public areas as tempo- rary halting sites. The family had been living in a picnic area in Newbridge in recent days. But, on Thursday last week a group of at least five men approached the site, claimed to be from the and threatened to kill everyone there unless they moved away immediately. The Travellers, all from the same family, were at the site at the time including two children aged just two and four. Head of the family, who wishes to be referred to only as 'Charlie' in order to protect his identity told the County Derry Post: "The way I look at it is that no matter what threats come we are leaving the area. "That's where we are from and that's where we are going to stay. We are not going to be threatened. We are part of this community." Travellers have used a site at Traad Point in south Derry in the past. ‘Charlie’ said the site at Traad Point was not up to standard as far as the Travel- ling Community was concerned so they moved on. This has meant the search for an official alternative site has been going on since. "We are not going to be hidden and we are not going to hide who we are. We are Travellers. "We have been threatened, but I am not leaving Magherafelt. I will be there for the rest of my life as will my kids. "We'll be back in the local area shortly. We are on a short holiday at the moment but we will be pitching back up again soon.” It is understood however that Traad Point is not a designated site open to anyone and the use of it can be considered as trespassing. Peter Bateson, a Sinn Fein Councillor for the area says he has been working to resolve the issue of finding a permanent site for the Travellers for some time. Speaking to the County Derry Post Cllr Bateson said: "This family have had roots in this area for around 60 years. "I would stress that this is a very complexed issue in terms of finding a more permanent site. The Travellers had also halted at other places such as a car park in Ballyronan which belongs to Mid Ulster District Council. Council have had no option but to get the people to move on. "A suitable area hasn't been located so far; that is an area suitable for caravans with the proper utilities. There is a need to find a suitable site and I have been working on this for some time. I believe the issue has become controversial for very little reason." Last week saw a public meeting held at Ballyronan Marina to discuss the issue, but it was last Thursday whilst a Council meeting was taking place in Dungannon that five men purporting to be from the 'IRA' showed up at the Travellers temporary site at Newbridge and threatened them. Councillor Bateson continued:"Basically these men showed up and threatened to kill everybody. "I don't know who they are who they represent but I would ask them publicly to come and articulate what they think they are about. "They have claimed to be from the 'IRA'. The IRA went off the stage many years ago, they don't come from any 'IRA' I know of. "Instead of issuing threats why don't they contribute to finding a solution to a very complexed issue and explain what solutions they have. "There are people opposed to Travellers being in the area but there's a clear distinction between that and supporting any threats being made against them. Social media commentary on the issue in recent times has also been extremely unhelpful.” "Can those who made this threat tell us how it fits in with the process of trying to resolve this. The process has short- comings and it's flawed, but I am confident that it will be resolved eventually and the efforts to that will be resolved." A spokesperson for the PSNI told the County Derry Post: "Police are investigating an incident that occurred in the Mid- Ulster area on Thursday July 26. Enquiries into the incident are ongoing."    

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