16 September 2005

Call for PSNI to get tough on disruption

Belfast Telegraph

By Maureen Coleman
mcoleman@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
16 September 2005

CONCERNS were mounting today at the PSNI's alleged inaction over the ongoing illegal road blocks staged by loyalist protesters.

Main arterial routes in Belfast and surrounding areas have been closed at rush-hour each night this week, causing traffic chaos for commuters.

Yesterday evening, as motorists made their way home, a number of roads were closed throughout the city, including Cliftonpark Avenue, Seymour Hill, the upper Malone Road at Taughmonagh, Broadway, Shankill Road, Lanark Way and Agnes Street.

A top police chief admitted yesterday that while the protests were illegal and causing disruption, officers had refused to remove women and children blocking roads across Belfast because of fear of retaliatory loyalist attacks.

SDLP MLA and member of the Policing Board, Alex Attwood, said the community's patience had run out.

"What the community needs now is the tough robust policing we saw at the weekend," he said.

"The community had a little understanding of why the police were keeping their distance, but they now want to see strong decisive policing against those who are mounting these roadblocks and causing disruption on our streets."

However an angry Alliance MLA said that as he was listening to Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland's vows to keep the roads clear, he was stuck in a traffic jam, before eventually being turned back by police and forced to take an alternative route.

Seamus Close said that rather than assisting "law-abiding, democratic people" the police were perceived to be "acquiescing to thugs flouting the law".

He said: "I support the PSNI but these young officers are not being allowed to do their jobs."

Yesterday, ACC McCausland promised to "keep the life blood of the city open".

But, he added: "I have clear indications that if I move against women and children, paramilitaries or other organisations in the community may come out against me and my officers.

"I want to balance that and make a decision in terms of maintaining law and order and the peace of the community but I intend to keep the roads open as much as possible."

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