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1 March 2001 Edition

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RUC jackboot tactics slammed

The new RUC recruitment campaign was branded a sick joke after repeated provocations last week in the Markets area of Belfast and the town of Lurgan.

Four children, aged seven to thirteen, were injured during the incident in Eliza Street Close in the Markets area last Friday. Six RUC patrols and a helicopter were deployed at around eight o'clock during a house raid. According to local community leaders, the RUC provoked youths by chanting, making comments about the new recruitment drive and making obscene gestures. As the situation escalated into a riot, the RUC members refused to talk to community representatives.

Minutes after the RUC finally agreed to withdraw the six jeeps, a full riot squad of over 50 RUC men wearing helmets and wielding batons and shields invaded the area. ``The riot squad was sent in as the situation had calmed down,'' said Peter Montgomery, community worker and youth leader in the area. ``It was blatantly obvious that the RUC were seeking to inflame the situation further.

``It was sheer madness. The attitude and tactics used show that the mindset of the RUC has not changed one iota.'' Local Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Hayes added that ``the attack on this community is proof that nothing has changed''.

The violence follows a similar incident in Lurgan on Thursday morning. Upper Bann Sinn Féin MLA Dara O'Hagan hit out at the heavy-handed actions of the RUC and the British Army in Lurgan's Kilwilke estate.

``At least four house raids were carried out by the RUC and the British Army and in an unnecessarily heavy handed fashion, with the RUC attacking residents and firing plastic bullets,'' she said. ``It is obvious that such attacks on the nationalist community by the RUC and British Army are aimed at raising tensions in the area at a very delicate time.

``The incident once against highlights the contempt in which the RUC hold the nationalist community and underlines why they will never be acceptable as a police service to nationalists.''

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