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10 January 2002 Edition

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RUC/PSNI accused of endangering residents

The RUC/PSNI have welded closed a gate used by nationalist residents as an escape route from loyalist attack.

The gates at Arthur Bridge, leading to the Longlands estate, on the outskirts of North Belfast leads to a passageway that residents use when they are under attack from loyalist gangs coming out of the White City area.

The residents also use the passageway as a short cut when bringing their children to school on the nearby Whitewell Road. Now, parents have to make a detour through the estate and use the busy Arthur Road.

According to residents, the RUC/PSNI came in the middle of the night to weld the gate and didn't even consult with them.

One man told An Phoblacht that the residents used to lock the gate themselves, using a chain, to stop loyalists attacking the houses in the estate and that the RUC/PSNI had a key to the lock. "There was no need for them to weld the gate shut", he said, "they had access and we could lock the gate at times of heightened tension to protect ourselves."

The man, who acts as a spokesperson for the residents but who wished to remain anonymous because loyalists blasted his home with a shotgun just before Christmas, says "the decision to weld the gate shut goes completely against the interests of the people of Longlands".

Meanwhile, speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin councillor for the area, Breige Meehan, said "there have been countless attacks on people walking along this stretch of the road and the only way people have escaped is by using this gate. That this escape route has now been cut off is leading people to ask why that decision was taken and why were they not consulted."

In a statement, the RUC/PSNI claimed that "the operation of the gate was the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Office".

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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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