30 June 2005 Edition

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PSNI slammed over Ballymena Orange march

North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has told An Phoblacht that he will be writing to the Dublin Government and the Police Ombudsman after nationalist residents in Ballymena were subjected to sectarian harassment and abuse at the hands of the PSNI as an Orange Parade made its way through the nationalist Market Street area of the town on Monday 27 June.

Three nationalist residents were arrested as Orangemen and loyalist bandsmen shouted sectarian slogans and made obscene hand gestures towards residents.

Speaking to An Phoblacht McGuigan said the behaviour of the PSNI towards nationalists was outrageous and called on the Police Ombudsman's Office to investigate the sectarian behaviour of the PSNI.

"There were about 500 participants in the parade and while members of the SDLP were allowed to monitor the march, myself and other Sinn Féin representatives were prevented from doing so and even threatened with arrest by the PSNI," he said.

"The PSNI and loyalists were allowed to videotape residents but when nationalists tried to take photographs of the parade they were threatened with having their equipment confiscated under the Prevention of Terrorism Act."

McGuigan said one man was arrested for dangerous driving after the PSNI singled his car out and put a gun to his head while they searched it. Also, a woman and a young nationalist were arrested while attempting to return home.

"The excessive intimidation directed against nationalists during this loyalist parade only goes to prove that the sectarian nature of the discredited RUC still exists within the PSNI," he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has called on the Parades Commission to make a permanent determination that Orange Parades be no longer permitted to go through the predominantly nationalist areas of Mourne Park in Newtownstewart and Ferguson Crescent in Castlederg.

West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty, speaking to An Phoblacht, said: "Orange Parades through Mourne Park in Newtownstewart and Ferguson Crescent in Castlederg are nothing more than sectarian coat trailing exercises and the yearly cycle of fear, intimidation and on occasion violence that is experienced by the local nationalist community must be broken once and for all.

"I have therefore written to the Parades Commission calling on it to make a permanent determination that these contentious Parades be no longer be allowed through these areas."

Doherty said that if local low key Orange church parades can confine themselves to non-contentious routes, then the Parades Commission must ask why the assorted Loyal Orders and loyalist bands insist on marching through Mourne Park in Newtownstewart and Ferguson Crescent in Castlederg at the height of the marching season when tensions are at their highest?

In a separate development, Rasharkin Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay has called for the Parades Commission to permanently ban the Giant's Causeway Band from Bushmills from parades through nationalist areas. McKay was speaking after watching a contentious loyalist parade in Kilrea, County Derry on Friday night 24 June.

McKay said the band, which is due to march through Rasharkin in August, behaved in an atrocious manner. "As soon as they approached nationalist residents, who had gathered to protest against this sectarian parade, members started chanting, 'UFF' over and over," he said, "whilst two of the flag-bearers carried UDA regalia. This band, as well as others with loyalist paramilitary links, must be permanently banned from nationalist areas by the Parades Commission."

McKay criticised the PSNI over their behaviour towards nationalist protesters after one nationalist youth was beaten by the PSNI in the back of a Land Rover".

An Phoblacht
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