31 March 2005

Irelandclick.com

Cllr welcomes gun find decision by Ombudsman

A Lisburn councillor has welcomed the ruling of the Police Ombudsman in relation to a gun find at his party’s offices on the Stewartstown Road, writes Pádraig ó Meiscill.

On October 13, 2004 the PSNI discovered an imitation Walther pistol and 20 rounds of live ammunition in a planned search at the rear of a garage close to the Sinn Féin constituency office. Cllr Paul Butler is one of the councillors who uses the office on a regular basis.

Despite the proximity of the constituency office and the fact that Butler and his home have suffered frequent attacks in recent years the PSNI did not inform him of the find.

However, it was only after being contacted by the Andersonstown News that the PSNI admitted finding the gun and ammunition.

In a letter to Mr Butler the Ombudsman’s office recognised that notification of the find should have been given.

The letter went on to say: “It is the view of the Police Ombudsman that where live ammunition is found in close proximity to the offices of a constituted political party it would have been in the public interest to advise you accordingly.

“In the circumstances the Police Ombudsman considers that it was appropriate that you complained about this matter and regards your complaint as substantiated.”

The Ombudsman also stated that further enquiries were being conducted to establish the “operational reasons” why Councillor Butler was not informed.
Responding to the letter the Lisburn councillor said that the findings upheld his concerns about “the way the PSNI tried to cover up the raid.”

Councillor Butler continued: “I am also very concerned that the PSNI say they did not say anything about this find for operational reasons. What are these operational reasons?

“The full facts about this find of a gun and ammunition should be made public.
“This gun was found near our offices, I and other Sinn Féin elected representatives use this office on a regular basis. It is grave concern to us that we found out by accident that this gun and also live ammunition was found so close to our offices.”

Sinn Féin councillors in the Lagan Valley area have been a frequent target for loyalist paramilitaries in the past.

Gunmen attacked former elected representative Annie Armstrong’s home during her term of office while Councillor Butler himself has been sent death threats and bullets in the post.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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