Former Noraid chief backs O'Hara

THE FORMER head of the US-Irish republican support group NORAID was in Derry yesterday to give his backing to independent republican election candidate, Peggy O'Hara.

Martin Galvin - whose involvement in the North's affairs dates back to the early years of the troubles - was on the campaign trail with the abstentionist candidate who is running in the memory of her son Patsy who died on hunger strike in Long Kesh in 1981.

The former editor of the US republican newspaper 'The Irish People' told the 'Journal' that he saw "a great welcome" for the 76 year-old in Derry due to her opposition to giving any endorsement to the PSNI.

Mr. Galvin is on a whistle-stop tour of the North to give his support abstentionist independent republican candidates ahead of the March 7 assembly elections.

Galvin - who split from Sinn Fin in the mid-1990s over its involvement in the peace process - hit out at the republican party's recent decision to back the PSNI as "a serious mistake in judgement".

"For her to have felt it was necessary to uphold what her son fought and died for says a lot about the situation here at the minute."

He added that nationalists and republicans who had seen family members "burned, beaten and tortured at the hands of the RUC/PSNI" had been very dissappointed by recent events.

In promoting Mrs O'Hara's campaign he said: "This is a vote against the RUC/PSNI, it's against British law and British rule in Ireland."

After his split from provisional Sinn Fein, Mr Galvin began supporting a faction that would eventually evolve into the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, the political wing of the Real IRA.

Mr Galvin was in Derry a few years ago to attend a meeting of a dissident republican prisoners' support group in the city.

A 1983 trip that Mr Galvin made to the North so angered the British authorities that he was officially barred from entering the region the following year.

However, in August 1984, a visit by Mr Galvin sparked a tragic chain of events that would ultimately lead to the death of Sean Downes - a 22-year-old nationalist who was killed by a plastic bullet as the RUC rushed a platform in Andersonstown where Galvin had appeared to make a speech.