RUC attack Sinn Fin youths
Originally published between January 27th and 29th, 2001
Five young Sinn Fein activists and a Sinn Fein councillor were assaulted by the RUC in an unprovoked attack last week.
The attack happened in a remote part of rural County Tyrone near the village of Greencastle, when the young people were blocked and hemmed in by a number of unmarked RUC cars.
According to the young people, they came across an unusually large force of heavily armed RUC officers as they drove to the home of Omagh Sinn Fein councillor Sean Clarke. Some of the RUC men had their faces "blacked up," they said.
Speaking at a press conference in Belfast last week, Sinn Fein chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin told the media that the five may have happened upon an RUC undercover operation. Assembly member for the area Barry McElduff told reporters that "the RUC is engaged in almost nightly surveillance operations at the homes of Sinn Fein elected representatives in the area in an attempt to intimidate those representatives and their constituents."
McElduff said that he had raised the issue with Six-County security minister Adam Ingram. He said he told Ingram, "if anything happens to me you know where to go to find those responsible."
On the evening of the assaults, the five youths were travelling in a car driven by Sean Pol Begley to Greencastle to see Sean Clarke but when they arrived at the house they saw there were no lights on. The group drove on to a place where they could pick up a signal for a mobile phone to contact the councillor.
Driving on up the hill, they spotted a number of car lights and decided to investigate what was unusual activity in the area. As they closed in on the lights, they saw there were as many as 15 RUC members standing around a number of cars. According to Ronan McMahon, "they were very heavily armed."
When Sean Pol found a spot in the road to turn he did so and headed back towards Greencastle, but as he was driving back he noticed a car closing on him fast.
By this time, McMahon had made contact with Clarke and was talking to him when the following car sounded a siren and overtook their vehicle. Other RUC cars pulled up behind Sean Pol Begley's car, hemming them in.
An RUC man approached the car and told Begley to get out of the car and when the driver asked why he was punched on the face and called a "stupid fenian bastard."
Other RUC members had, in the meantime, surrounded the car. They verbally abused Majella McElduff, Emma McMahon and Claire McMahon (who are sisters but not related to Ronan), who were in the back seat.
Councillor Sean Clarke, who then arrived at the scene, was told to "fuck off."
The RUC men then dragged Begley from the car and beat him. He was forced to the ground where one of the squad knelt on his chest. He was kicked on the upper body and hit on the leg with a baton. They also attacked Clarke, knocking him onto the bonnet of the car.
When the others got out of the car to help they were also beaten. Claire McMahon was beaten about the head, knocked to the ground and kicked in the back.
To add insult to injury, Sean Pol Begley was subsequently arrested and taken to Omagh RUC barracks, where he was charged with obstruction and assaulting the RUC.
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