Following his acquittal today in a non-jury British Court, Saoradh Activist, Dee Fennell, took to social media for the first time since he was denied his rights to freedom of speech almost three years ago. This is what he had to say;
“After having an hour to calm down since posting from the court where I was acquitted today, I would like to comment briefly (if possible) on the last two years and eight months.
In April 2015 I was proud to be asked to speak at an Easter Commemoration in Lurgan by comrades in that area. In that speech, I gave a historical and contemporary political analysis, while also paying tribute to our martyred dead throughout the generations of struggle.
The response from political unionism was hysterical, with demands for my arrest. This duly occurred, with my pregnant wife and the two youngest of our then five children subjected to a raid by scores of armed, masked and violent PSNI mercenaries. I was charged and remanded in Maghaberry Gaol for two months, and despite the conditions, it was an absolute pleasure to be with comrades in Roe House – regardless of their affiliation.
When bailed I was initially banned from all public speaking. This meant I was in theory even banned from normal activities such as giving an opinion at parent meetings at my children’s Bunscoil or even addressing a members meeting at Ardoyne Kickhams or Crumlin Star. As intended by the State, it also prevented me from articulating any view in terms of political, social or community issues. This ban was refined after a year, but still, I was prevented from articulating any view relating to Republicanism.
I was completely banned from posting on social media or the internet. While some will no doubt have welcomed this, notably the quislings I enjoyed challenging and debating with, this was a direct infringement on my right to free speech.
During this time the State, Sinn Féin and compliant media outlets pursued a campaign of character assassination against me, mindful that I had narrowly missed out on being elected to Belfast City Council by only 160 votes a number of months before my arrest. I have been portrayed wrongly as a thug, bully and violent by a plethora of unnamed “sources”, MI5/PSNI directed Sunday rags and state-subsidised “community” media outlets.
The main purveyors of this nonsense on social media was by family members of anti-community filth that poison our children. Separately also by SF collaborators, most of whose lack of courage to say anything to my face is matched only by their fear of ever throwing a stone, and who revelled in attacking me and my family. All of this was carried out in the full knowledge that I couldn’t defend myself publicly or on social media.
The silence regarding my charges from SF and the SDLP is replicated in the case of all Republicans and is not surprising. They support the PSNI that arrest us, the PPS that charge us, the Diplock judges that hear our trials and the Screws that lock us up.
These charges were a manifestation of irreformable British policing in Ireland. They were politically motivated and they had the potential to have wide-ranging future implications for Republicans and other progressives. The fact they failed is to be welcomed.
I want to thank my legal team from KRW Law and Karen and Donal, my barristers. My comrades in the IRPWA for their support and assistance, and also Saoradh which has been constituted in the intervening period. I want to pay tribute to our imprisoned comrades who continue to inspire us all. Also independent Republican councillors Bernice Swift and Padraig McShane who observed the trial.
I want to thank all those who attended and organised protests and pickets in the wake of my arrest, especially those from other Republican organisations and independents. I also want to thank GARC for their support and the ordinary people of Ardoyne, the Bone, Torrens and across Belfast who stopped me in the street to offer support, especially at times of vitriolic attack.
The biggest thanks are to my wife Louise for continuing to put up with me and fighting my corner no matter what, and our six children Eoin, Mairéad, Éamann, Donnchadh, Síofra and Bláthnaid. And of course my Ma and Da, the rest of the wider Fennell clann and our friends.
This case has proven once and for all that Republicans have the right to articulate and convey the legitimacy of our struggle to the wider public, and we should not shirk from our collective responsibility to do so.”