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13 February 2003 Edition

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Heavy handed PSNI in Omagh

West Tyrone Sinn Fein Assembly member Barry McElduff is accusing the PSNI of heavy handed tactics during disturbances in Omagh town centre in the early hours of Sunday 9 February.

The trouble began when drunken youths leaving night clubs became involved in brawls and the PSNI moved in.

According to the PSNI, around 200 youths were involved in a two-hour riot in the town's Castle Street area, in which a wall was knocked down. The PSNI also claim that 16 of its members were injured.

McElduff acknowleded that fighting between drunken youths was a factor in the trouble, but said the trouble intensified after the PSNI arrived. He accused them of using heavy handed tactics against young people in the area and is calling for an independent investigation into the weekend's events.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, McElduff said the PSNI were driving their vehicles at young people trying to ram them against walls.

"Members of the PSNI attacked local youths who were standing at burger stands. This resulted in more disturbances in the area, said McElduff".

The Sinn Fein man went onto criticise the attitude of the PSNI and their use of CCTV footage, saying, "it was very convenient of the PSNI to release video coverage of the incident which only covers the scene after the PSNI arrived. What about the CCTV footage of when they arrived and when they began attacking young people? This seems to me that the PSNI are releasing selective coverage of the incident".

He added that residents of Castle Street and young people have contacted him and made witness statements about the ferocity of the attacks on them by the PSNI.



Sinn Féin member arrested at election count




North Antrim Sinn Féin has accused the PSNI of attempting to intimidate party workers after a Sinn Féin member was arrested after leaving a by-election count in Ballycastle council offices on Wednesday 5 February.

Sinn Féin councillor Philip McGuigan told An Phoblacht the PSNI had been following Sinn Féin election workers over the past few weeks as they put up posters and canvassed the local area, stopping cars and harassing members giving out leaflets.

The arrested man said the PSNI harassment against him has been ongoing since he was accused of 'unlicensed angling' in September 2001.

"I have moved three times since 2001 and they have known where I have been living, but they waited until the election count to arrest me and take me to Maghaberry Jail," he said. The man told An Phoblacht that at no time was a summons served on him for the alleged offence and he had never received any notification of conviction or sentence.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Philip McGuigan praised the Sinn Féin candidate in last week's election, Cathal Newcombe, on raising the profile of Sinn Fin in the Glens of Antrim, with 549 votes, an increased from 12 percent in 2001 to 30.9 percent. Philip McGuigan told An Phoblacht that "if this trend continues the party should actually take a council seat next time".

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