13 August 2005

Ombudsman to be asked to probe PSNI behaviour

Daily Ireland

Connla Young

The Police Ombudsman’s Office will be asked to probe the behaviour of the PSNI after a republican parade in Co Antrim this week.
Although the republican parade through Ballymena passed off without serious incident on Tuesday night, republicans say a crowd of up to 800 loyalists were allowed to assemble illegally.
News that Nuala O’Loan’s office was asked to launch an investigation into the conduct of the PSNI comes after figures released yesterday show that just two people have been charged in relation to an intense sectarian campaign directed at Catholics living in and around the staunch loyalist town.
The PSNI ha also come in for criticism after fire blankets and smoke alarms were given to Catholics under threat from loyalist paramilitaries. Advice on what window to jump from in the event of an attack was also given to terrified Ahogill residents earlier this week.
In recent weeks the PSNI, supported by the British Army have flooded loyalist areas in Belfast in a bid to protect members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) under threat from their Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) rivals. It is estimated the price of policing the loyalist feud costs the PSNI £30,000 (€38,000) a day.
Daily Ireland reported yesterday that since the start of July, 21 sectarian incidents have been recorded by the PSNI’s District Command Unit. The majority of the attacks have been directed against Catholics.
In recent weeks five Catholic churches in the Ballymena area have been targeted in seven separate loyalist attacks.
Ballymena Sinn Fein councillor Monica Digney says the PSNI has failed to protect Catholics under attack in and around Ballymena.
“We only have to look at what has happened in Belfast and Ballymena to see the different approach. In Belfast they send dozens of officers into an estate when someone is under threat and in Ahoghill they hand out blankets and tell people what window to jump from.
“At the parade this week loyalists were allowed to gather in an illegal assembly. They moved in a water canon but didn’t use it. We are currently preparing to make a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office.
“They blamed this parade for an attack on a Catholic church this week, but these attacks started on Good Friday and there is no will to put a stop to it.”
Meanwhile, senior SDLP representatives are to meet with government ministers, police chiefs and political leaders in a bid to halt the attacks on nationalist homes and Catholic churches.
Sean Farren, MLA for North Antrim, said he will meet Chief Constable Hugh Orde today.
He said: “We have had a wave of attacks from Lisburn to the north of the county and as far as Coleraine and it has got to be stopped and stopped now. The church in Harryville has been paint-bombed three times in as many weeks and the situation in Ahoghill has been particularly alarming. While the so-called republican parade didn’t help and has certainly made the situation worse, the problem of sectarianism and loyalist violence in north and mid Antrim runs much deeper.
“I welcome the forthright condemnations by Protestant churchmen and some unionist politicians, but the immediate situation requires much stronger cross-community action.”

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