27 August 2005

Mala Poist: PSNI continue to rub salt into the wounds


Senior PSNI figure, DCC Paul Leighton, sent to Ahoghill in a PR fire-fighting mission this week, merely succeeded in throwing more petrol on the flames by claiming with a poker face that there was merely an “element” of sectarianism to the avalanche of attacks on Catholic homes and property in North Antrim in recent months.
Was it the attacks on Catholic churches, or schools, or Catholic-owned pubs or indeed Catholic homes that constitute an element? Whichever attacks constituted the element, one imagines Mr Leighton would concur that this is a remarkable set of circumstances whereby neighbourhood squabbling runs alongside sectarian violence without ever meeting.
In truth, this claim - from no less than the Number 2 to Hugh Orde himself – merely confirms the belief that the PSNI instinctively adopt a unionist stance when faced with loyalist violence.
Firstly, keep an open mind on the motive; secondly, seek to justify it by labelling it ‘reactive’ to a more sinister republican action.
This unionist bias was evident in the numerous remarks attributed to the Ballymena PSNI in linking the wave of attacks on Catholics to the internment parade held in the town in August, as if anti-Catholic attacks were somehow alien to the God-fearing people of the Bible belt prior to the republican parade.
The PSNI’s behaviour this summer lays bare the folly expounded by supporters of the force that it is a non-partisan policing organisation. In a six-week period, we have witnessed PSNI officers insult the collective intelligence of the nationalist community by purposefully seeking to conceal the reality of orchestrated loyalist violence.
The PSNI leadership have further rubbed salt in the wounds by maintaining a deafening silence about the ongoing UVF killing spree which has claimed five lives in seven weeks.
Hugh Orde’s silence over this matter contrasts sharply with the haste in which media interviews were arranged following the PSNI raid on Sinn Féin offices in Stormont.
The PSNI inactivity in Ahoghill is all the more remarkable when contrasted with two recent incidents. In the first episode, PSNI officers roared into nationalist estates in Antrim and Limavady towns to remove Irish flags, citing ‘operational reasons’ when asked for a reason by local media. Such operational reasons have yet to instigate a similar response from the PSNI to the hundreds of loyalist/union flags, UVF/UDA/LVF banners and emblems erected without hindrance across Antrim and Limavady towns and the North in general.
In the second incident, the organiser of the Ballymena internment parade was stopped at a PSNI road block and prevented from entering the city of Derry on the orders of the senior PSNI figure on the grounds that his presence could lead to a breach of the peace.
This novel use of PSNI powers raises a number of questions. Given that we know the PSNI had intelligence pointing to attacks on Catholics in Ahoghill, why then did the PSNI not prevent known loyalists from entering the village using these exclusionary powers? Come to think of it, why do they not use these powers to prevent marauding bands of loyalist thugs from erecting sectarian flags and bunting from mixed areas throughout the entire summer?
The conclusion we are left with as summer draws to a close is that the PSNI has failed yet again to come up to the mark as an impartial policing service, illustrating the distance it must yet travel to become acceptable to the vast majority of nationalists.

Chris Donnelly
Killultagh Sinn Féin representative

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