In this article, leading Creggan community worker SEAN MCMONAGLE - who has been the subject of a campaign of graffiti and threats in recent weeks - expains his views on those behind the campaign.
This places me in a direct collision course with those who are anti-republican, anti-peace process and who do not wish to see our community move forward, in particular the armed micro groups who enforce their presence in the area. The attacks have reached a particular point of a vindictiveness and viciousness, more resembling sectarian or racist hatred in recent weeks - much of it reminiscent of Nazi tactics against the Jews - whispering campaigns vilifying an individual or group, anonymous slogan writers and, in this modern era, the internet warriors.
In the past I have shrugged this abuse off, however my children are at the age were they too can read, hear things up in the street, and are active on the social networking sites, so the impact of this poison extends beyond myself and has a very unsettling impact upon my family. It is not a pleasant situation and it is no less emotionally traumatic than a child caught up in a house search or stop and search situation, particularly when your children are told that their house is to be attacked or their father is to be attacked. Following on from an attack upon our car just a year ago which is still very much in their mind, the trauma to them is very real and very real for Anne and I as parents.
My colleagues in the community sector issued a very supportive statement last week, and the person whose home was the focus of a PSNI raid also publicly clarified the circumstances around the raid, my detractors know this but care little about truth.
One of the arenas chosen by my attackers, largely made up of those labelled dissident republicans or self appointed vigilantes, is the issue of policing. More than five years ago this community debated this issue. One of the most radical and thorough national discussions which ever took place occurred around the policing issue. The debate on policing is over. The phase we now find ourselves is one of critical engagement, holding to account police actions or inaction, shaping policing priorities, depoliticalising the police and developing and sustaining a civic policing service which has the confidence of the community. I am thoroughly engaged in that process and I will continue that engagement.
Stark contradictions can clearly be seen in all of this. It seems that I and other community workers and organisations are not permitted in these people’s eyes to engage with policing structures but others can. Take for example Rosemount Resource Centre - they meet and engage with Police on community safety issues on a daily or weekly basis - and rightly so. The centre is not attacked, the workers are not vilified nor is there a group of angry people shouting at them about police harassment. Nor should they be subjected to any of these things. In fact senior members in the 32 CSM often sit in one room while the PSNI are in the next room. The self-styled RAAD group also engage regularly. I am not the only one who sees the irony in all of this.
These attacks stand in contrast to the positivity in my personal and work life. In the last two years I have graduated from the University of Ulster with a First Class Honours degree, became a husband and a grandfather, and was proud to support the Pink Ladies. In my work I have with others been successful in securing the development of the Creggan District Park, much needed social housing with a social approach to employment, a £2 million training programme, securing youth services for the area and the completion of plans which will see a major refurbishment of the Corned Beef Tin.
The challenges are: Do I fold and stop the work that I am doing and capitulate to the slander, threats and intimidation of these people? Do I decide to sit on the fence and try to be all things to all people and pretend that these people are not the biggest negative influence and threat in our community? Or just keep my head down do my job and go home happy at 5.00pm and pretend that it has nothing to do with me?
I am not prepared to do any of these things. I will continue to work positively to improve the lives of the residents in Creggan. I want a future for my children and all the other children of Creggan. I want every positive opportunity for all children in my community. What approach or actions will best realise these objectives: the approach advocated by those intent on holding the community back, or the approach taken by myself and others who strive to promote Creggan on a daily basis. The answer is clear. I do not expect everyone to agree to my community or political view, I do expect my right to hold such views to be respected. I will be continuing my work as a community worker in Creggan in the knowledge that I have the support of that community and that’s what is important to me.