30 June 2005

PSNI behaviour condemned

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

The Police Ombudsman has been asked to investigate the conduct of PSNI members who patrolled a controversial Orange Order march in Ballymena.
On Monday night, three nationalists in the Co Antrim market town were arrested during a march involving 450 loyalists and 13 bands.
Those arrested have been accused of committing public order offences, but, according to Sinn Féin, all they were doing was monitoring the parade.
The arrests took place after the Orange Order marched through the predominantly nationalist Market Road and Broughshane Street.
There were no protests, although some locals did attempt to record the parade on camcorder in case there was any breaches of Parades Commission guidelines.
At previous loyalist parades in Ballymena paramilitary flags have been displayed and sectarian tunes have been played.
Locals were prevented from filming by the PSNI and a short time later three nationalists were arrested.
North Antrim Sinn Féin Assemblyman Philip McGuigan has complained to the Police Ombudsman about the behaviour of the PSNI.
He insisted they were heavy-handed and blatantly partisan in their treatment of nationalist residents.
Mr McGuigan said: “It is obvious from the partisan treatment handed out to the nationalist and republican community of Ballymena that the PSNI here operates in a sectarian manner.
“They don’t even try and cover up this fact,” he said.
“I will be contacting the Police Ombudsman regarding this operation in Ballymena.
“I will also be contacting the Irish government as Bertie Ahern’s government have an obligation to protect the rights of Northern nationalists.
“I intend to make sure that he fulfils his obligations.”
Mr McGuigan said he will ask the Irish government to send representatives to monitor future parades in Ballymena and to investigate alleged abusive patterns of policing.
SDLP Assemblyman, Sean Farren, and local councillor Declan O’Loan, said they had “grave concerns” about how the parade was policed.
They said questions have to be asked about the way nationalists were handled by the police.
“We are very concerned about the conduct of policing of the parade and the protest," Mr O'Loan said.
“They prevented pedestrians walking along the street, and questioned people, including public representatives, as to who they were and their reasons for being there, as if assuming they were trouble-makers."
The SDLP said the incident would be raised at a public session of the Policing Board on Thursday.
Ballymena Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor Roy Gillespie, who took part in Monday night’s parade, claimed nationalists objecting to loyalist parades in the town were “anti-Protestant and anti-God”.
“Republicans start all the trouble,” said the Orangeman.
“They should be locked up because they want to disrupt every parade in Ballymena and attack the police.
“All the songs the Orangemen played were gospel tunes.
“Republicans had better learn them if they want to get to heaven.
“They can have no objection to decent, hard-working Protestants walking the Queen’s highway,” added Mr Gillespie.
Referring to Mr McGuigan’s complaints, a spokesperson for the PSNI said it could not comment because the matter had been referred to the Police Ombudsman.

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