01 September 2005

Meeting on policing cancelled over protest

Belfast Telegraph

By Nevin Farrell
01 September 2005

A scheduled meeting of Ballymena District Policing Partnership in a Co Antrim village was cancelled over fears of a loyalist protest, it emerged last night.

The policing meeting was due to be held in Ahoghill last Thursday, but did not proceed because of simmering tensions surrounding a loyalist revolt against the SDLP chairman of the body.

A previous meeting of Ballymena DPP was abandoned in June in the nearby village of Clough after around 60 loyalists clapped their hands and shouted down the chairman, Councillor Declan O'Loan, every time he tried to speak.

Mr O'Loan eventually had to get a hasty police escort though the loyalist crowd amidst sectarian abuse.

Loyalists were angry at Mr O'Loan's remarks in his capacity as an SDLP councillor when he said he was opposed to a "mini-Twelfth" loyal order parade going along Market Road in Ballymena in June this year.

Prominent Ballymena loyalist Billy McCaughey, a convicted murderer, was part of the protest at Clough and he said loyalists felt that Mr O'Loan should not be allowed into unionist areas if he didn't want loyalists in parts of Ballymena.

Mr McCaughey said a protest would have been held in Ahoghill if the meeting had gone ahead.

"It would have been the same result and the meeting would not have been possible," he added, saying the issue is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the Policing Board meets at the Galgorm Manor Hotel near Ballymena area today, the first time it has travelled to the district.

Mr McCaughey, a former police officer who was given life for his involvement in a murder during the Troubles, said he has been invited to attend the meeting at which Chief Constable Hugh Orde is expected to be in attendance.

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