8 October 1998 Edition
SF Councillor assaulted by RUC
Children terrorised in dawn raid
A Sinn Féin Councillor in Armagh city is to take legal action against the RUC after they assaulted him, raided his home, terrorised his children and arrested him. Councillor Seán McGirr said people in Armagh were ``disgusted'' at the behaviour of the RUC in the weekend incident.
Councillor McGirr was in his home at 2.30am on Sunday 4 October when he was asked to intervene in an altercation at a local taxi depot. By the time he arrived at the scene the altercation had ended. The SF councillor was standing at the door of the taxi depot when the RUC arrived. A sergeant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, ran at Councillor McGirr and grabbed him from behind. He then took him outside the depot and struck him with his baton. Seán McGirr said that the sergeant's colleagues in the RUC mobile patrol who were standing by were ``taken aback'' by the assault.
Councillor McGirr travelled to Craigavon Hospital where he received treatment for a back injury caused by the RUC baton. Anticipating that it might be alleged by the RUC that the incident had been drink-related, the councillor had a blood test done which showed that he had no alcohol in his system. He then returned to his home.
At 6.30am on Sunday an RUC raiding party, led by the sergeant who had earlier assaulted Seán McGirr, came to his home. They verbally abused the councillor's daughter Dearbhail (17) before arresting Seán McGirr. He was handcuffed and taken to an RUC car. The councillor was manhandled while in the handcuffs and sustained cuts and bruises to his wrists. His three young children Saoirse (6), Niamh (7) and Daineal (11) were visibly distressed and this increased when the RUC took Dearbhail, who was in her nightclothes and bare feet, out of the house and across the street.
``I was afraid they were going to take us both away and leave the children unattended. The children were in hysterics at this stage,'' said Councillor McGirr. (The children's mother was at night work at the time.)
Dearbhail was let go but Councillor McGirr was arrested and held in RUC custody for five hours. Both he and his daughter have been charged by the RUC with assault. Councillor McGirr said:
``I am taking legal advice and intend to take counter-charges against the RUC for assault on myself and for terrorising my family. I am very concerned about the effect of this incident on my children. People in Armagh are disgusted at the behaviour of the RUC.''
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin whose constituency neighbours that of Councillor McGirr described the assault as ``reprehensible''. He said: ``The brutalisation of a Sinn Féin elected representative and the terrorising of his family illustrates the bigotry still ingrained in the RUC. Attempts to rehabilitate this force are futile. A totally new policing service is needed.''