Northern Ireland news

Police investigate 'brazen show of strength' after masked gunmen fire shots at hunger striker Patsy O'Hara commemoration

Armed and masked men fired shots during the commemoration ceremony in Derry on Friday night.
Seamus McKinney

POLICE are investigating after what was described as a "brazen armed show of strength" to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of Derry hunger striker Patsy O'Hara.

Armed and masked men fired a volley of shots close to the hunger striker's home in the Bishop Street area on Friday night.

The 23-year-old, who was a member of the INLA, was the third of ten hunger strikers to after 61 days on May 21 1981.

Following an oration and the unveiling of a new mural, a colour party consisting of up to 15 masked men marched from the side of a row of houses and took up a position in front of the mural before firing a number of shots into the air.

The party appeared to be armed with a number of different weapons ranging from handguns to machine guns.

Following the incident, the group marched off. In video footage, which later appeared on social media, up to 12 shots can be heard. After the shots were fired a member of party can be seen appearing to pick up cartridges.

A PSNI spokesman yesterday appealed for witnesses and information.

Derry City and Strabane Area Commander, Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said: "An investigation is underway to establish who is responsible for this brazen armed show of strength that was carried out when it was still light outside, and in front of a significant crowd of people, including young children.

"The fact this occurred in the middle of a built-up area is even more shocking because any of the bullets fired could have ricocheted or strayed at any moment and into the nearby crowd, among which young children were present.

"It is extremely worrying these masked gunmen thought it was acceptable to carry out this reckless act and it illustrates the contempt they have for people in their community.

“What occurred was utterly appalling and has no place in today's society, nor is there any justification for such scenes.

"Our officers have been in the Ardfoyle area conducting enquiries today, and I am appealing to anyone who can assist our investigation to get in touch. In particular, we want to hear from anyone who witnessed what occurred."

DUP assembly member, Gary Middleton condemned the act.

"Police need to investigate this as a matter of urgency; it's a throwback to the past that no-one wants on our streets, particularly with the challenges were are now facing.

“It sends fear across our community. I would call on the police to investigate this and to put those responsible before the courts.”

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