22 July 2004 Edition

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PSNI fire live rounds in Kilrea

In Kilrea, County Derry, up to 60 loyalists, armed with cudgels, baseball bats, golf clubs and blackthorn sticks, took over the Diamond area in the middle of the Derry village on Saturday evening 10 July, and replaced four Union flags which had previously been taken down by a group of youngsters.

The loyalists congregated into the early hours of Sunday morning. When a group of nationalist youths returning home from a local nightclub arrived in the village, the loyalists verbally abused them before a well known Orangeman beat one youth around the head with a blackthorn stick.

The loyalists then attacked other nationalists in the Bank Square area before the PSNI's DMSU squads arrived and fired five shots into the air. The PSNI then turned on the nationalist crowd and forced them away from the Diamond and into Maghera and Dromore Streets.

"It doesn't take ten carloads of well known loyalists to put up four flags," said Sinn Féin Councillor Billy Leonard. "No one in Kilrea objects to the erecting of these four flags, as they are usually taken down on the 12th night, but people seriously object to the sectarian provocation directed at them by a gang of loyalists whose only intention was to create trouble in Kilrea that night".

Leonard said the PSNI had collaborated with the gang. "The PSNI sent in armed members of the DMSU, who behaved in a gung ho fashion, firing five shots into the air before harassing nationalist residents, while totally ignoring the behaviour of the loyalist gang. Four local residents have lodged complaints with the Police Ombudsman's Office in relation to the firing of live rounds and the attitude of the PSNI in their dealing with the situation."

Also in Kilrea, a young Catholic man was attacked after two carloads of loyalists, armed with golf clubs and with their faces hidden behind scarves, roamed the Bank Square area on the night of Monday 12 July looking for nationalists to attack. Although the man in question was not seriously injured, he was very shocked by the ordeal.

A number of women complained to Councillor Leanard that PSNI members had called them 'Fenian scum' and pointed their fingers at them, imitating firing a gun.

"Where is the so-called new beginning to policing we have been promised when PSNI men can blatantly harass nationalists and know they can get away with it?" he asked. "We will be making official complaints about the actions of the PSNI to the Ombudsman's office."

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