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7 October 1999 Edition

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Belfast man hospitalised by RUC

A North Belfast man was detained in hospital for three days in order to receive microsurgery to his face, reconstruct his jaw, and elevate part of his cheekbone after he was attacked by the RUC.

The incident occurred when John O'Neill, a Catholic from the Antrim Road in North Belfast, was returning home with a Protestant friend after a night out.

O'Neill explained that he was approached by an RUC officer close to his home and was the victim of an unprovoked attack.

O'Neill's friend Gary Axton said: ``The officer was taken aback when I told him I was a Protestant and he let me go. Even so, nobody should be spoken to or attacked like John was.

``The police said they arrested him for disorderly conduct, but he wasn't charged with anything. Even if you are drunk and disorderly, the police are only allowed to use minimum force to restrain you.

``If you press charges against the police, they only harass you further, so while we've let previous incidents go this time they've gone too far and if we can't get any satisfaction from the RUC, we'll go through our solicitor and try to get justice that way.''

O'Neill has no sight in his left eye at the moment and has been told that the full extent of the damage may not be known until next week.

Loyalist violence erupts in Downpatrick



A Parades Commission ruling banning a loyalist band parade through Downpatrick on Friday 24 September was answered by violence from angry loyalists.

DUP representative Jim Wells said he found it difficult to contain his resentment after barricades were erected to prevent the Red Hand Defenders parade from going through the middle of Downpatrick.

Wells, accompanied by a number of representatives from the Red Hand Defenders band, said he had come to protest at ``the Parades Commission's ridiculous decision to stop the Protestant bands of Downpatrick from marching through their own town''.

After the DUP's Wells failed to persuade the RUC to allow the parade to pass a fusillade of missiles was thrown at the RUC by loyalists who had travelled from as far away as East Belfast, South Derry and Kilkeel. Loyalists draped in LVF flags threw bottles, cans and fireworks at the RUC lines.

Sinn Fein's Garret O'Fachtna who watched as the violence erupted claimed that many Downpatrick residents were fearful that some of the bands participating were connected with loyalist paramilitaries. ``One band in particular is widely regarded to be an LVF band. Why do they want to march in Downpatrick at all?'' asked O'Fachtna.

Tony Lackin, from Down Peace Forum said: ``This parade is not traditional, has no church connections and is not connected with any loyal orders. Basically it adds up to hours of disruption and noise for the people of Downpatrick''.
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