Support Sean Carlin! PSNI & Courts attempt to Criminalise Republican Commemorations

In what is the first case of its kind, a Belfast court has found a member of the IRSP “guilty” utilising draconian legislation for carrying a Republican flag during an Easter Sunday commemoration. Sean Carlin intends to appeal this worrying decision which now opens the door to criminalising selected individuals who wish to commemorate Ireland’s patriot dead at the whim of the PSNI & MI5.

Sean Carlin on a recent visit to Brittany
Sean Carlin on a recent visit to Brittany

Easter commemoration parades have occurred all across Ireland for over one hundred years, they utilise the anniversary of the historic 1916 ‘Easter Uprising’ to pay tribute to all men and women (before and since) who have died in the cause of Irish National Liberation.

Every Easter in Belfast, tens of thousands of Irish Republicans and Socialists, (from all organisations) march in Belfast’s Falls Road towards Milltown cemetery to attend the graves of Ireland’s patriot dead, many carrying the flags of military organisations who took part in the various campaigns against British rule in Ireland over the years.

Yet in recent years, and in particularly since the adoption of the ‘Fresh Start Agreement’ (a British government austerity program which also seeks to outlaw republican organisations that exist outside of mainstream politics) members of the Irish Republican Socialist Party have found themselves coming under a prolonged wave of British backed house raids, arrests and politically motivated charges, in an attempt to coerce the IRSP into supporting the mainstream conservative political process in occupied Ireland.

In 2017 during a traditional Easter Sunday commemoration on the Falls Road, a historical replica flag based on a flag used by the Belfast Brigade of the Irish National Liberation Army during the 1980s was formally unfurled by IRSP member Sean Carlin who then carried it during the procession towards Milltown cemetery.

The parade in question had been themed to honour in particular, members of the Belfast Brigade INLA who had lost their lives when the IRSP came under attack from counter revolutionaries 30 years earlier in 1987.

While the replica ‘Belfast Brigade INLA’ flag was (as far as all Republicans present were concerned) clearly being carried in recognition of the sacrifice made by fallen members of that organisation in 1987, it was revealed in court that undercover British police officers had observed Sean Carlin and ear marked him for arrest. He was later arrested from his home.

In court he was charged under the ‘Terrorism Act 2000’ and in particular with  “carrying an article, in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation”.

Despite defence barristers arguing that the flag was merely being carried as a ‘commemorative gesture’ the Judge took an overtly literal interpretation of the above legislation and found him guilty.

Not only does Sean Carlin now potentially face six months in prison for honouring Ireland’s patriot dead on a recognised day of national commemoration; his conviction (if upheld at appeal) risks making participation in a commemorative parade on Easter Sunday a potential criminal offence, as all such processions traditionally carry flags which either bear the title of or pay respects to organisations which Britain hold to be ‘proscribed’ or illegal, organisations: such as Óglaigh na hÉireann , Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Eireann and the various companies and battalions that existed within.

      Hands tied

At trial, Sean Carlin found himself in an unenviable dilemma; aware that most if not all other commemorations on Easter Sunday carried flags of “proscribed groupings” he could not in good conscience point fingers in a British court at comrades of other Republican organisations and so present himself with the obvious defence that ‘commemorating the past does not equate to pro-active support in the present’.

Had this argument been sufficiently made, then a narrower interpretation of the statute may well have seen the charge binned, yet unable and unwilling to state the obvious Sean and his defence team effectively had their hands tied and a clear case of targeted political policing was rubber stamped in Laganside court.

The IRSP are supporting Sean Carlin’s appeal against this Blatantly targeted oppression of a Republican Socialist and the potential all out criminalisation of Ireland’s right to commemorate its patriot dead, we are seeking to gain the support of all commemorative organisations in Ireland and would deeply appreciate the support of all comrades in raising awareness of an example of gross political oppression and cultural censorship.