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30 June 2013 Edition

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North Belfast – PSNI reaction ‘huge backward step’

Police armoured land rover drives at Sinn Féin policing board member trying to ease tension during ‘Tour of the North’ Orange parade

• A unionist bass drummer shows how much respect he has for St Patrick’s Church as his band passes

Frank Dempsey of the Carrick Hill Residents’ Association said that some parades participants were seen “spitting at the church, effing the Pope, the lot”. Residents were disgusted, he said.

VIDEO FOOTAGE by An Phoblacht of the PSNI after the arrest of a teenager during the Orange Order ‘Tour of the North’ parade clearly show that North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly was trying to de-escalate the situation when reckless police action inflamed feelings in a very volatile atmosphere.

It was reported that some unionist elements following the Orange Order parade on the evening of Friday 21 June started to attack nationalist homes in the Peter’s Hill part of Carrick Hill, kicking in people’s doors, and local youths had confronted them.

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After last year’s disgraceful scenes at St Patrick’s Church when a unionist band stopped and played The Famine Song at the doors of the Catholic place of worship – an event the Orange Order later distanced itself from – the Carrick Hill Residents’ Association staged a dignified, silent protest with a banner proclaiming “Respect St Patrick’s Church”.

Passing bandsmen broke a Parades Commission determination that only a single drum-beat be played passing the church with at least one bass drummer vigorously pounding out his beat as the band played hymns.

Frank Dempsey of the Carrick Hill Residents’ Association said that some parades participants were seen “spitting at the church, effing the Pope, the lot”. Residents were disgusted, he said.

A 16-year-old youth was arrested by the PSNI for what was described in one newspaper as “provocative conduct”. His family asked local Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly to find out what had happened. As well as being aformer  junior minister in the Executive, Kelly is a member of the Policing Board.

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The driver of a PSNI armoured Land Rover believed to be carrying the youth did stop when asked to by Kelly and opened the door to tell the local elected rep that he would pull over to the side of the road to explain and take the arrested youth’s mother’s details. Gerry Kelly acknowledged that and urged bystanders to remain calm and peaceful. However, the PSNI unit instead drove off at speed despite their commitment to the Assembly member.

Gerry Kelly was standing in the road when he flagged down a following Land Rover in a convoy to try and get some answers. The police officers refused to engage with him and the driver instead revved the engine and drove on with him in full view at the front of the vehicle, threatening to run over him.

The MLA was forced to cling to the bonnet as the police vehicle carried him a considerable distance before it came to a halt as crowds ran alongside.

Contrary to some media reports circulated by unionists, Gerry Kelly did not “jump on to” the Land Rover, and this can be clearly seen from the An Phoblacht footage.

Some angry witnesses started to bang on the vehicle but Gerry Kelly told them to stop and a senior officer arrived on the scene. The two men exchanged words as another PSNI officer answered Gerry Kelly’s query by ascertaining that the Land Rover driving at him was not carrying the arrested youth.

Gerry Kelly then thanked the local community for their solidarity, reiterated the need for calm and accompanied the youngster’s family to the Grosvenor Road PSNI station. The 16-year-old was later released pending a report from the Public Prosecution Service.

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During the commotion, local MLA and Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín sustained shoulder injuries later diagnosed in hospital as torn ligaments.

The episode has been referred to the Police Ombudsman.

Gerry Kelly said later that the PSNI actions on the ground were “dangerous, reckless and provocative”. He added:

“This is no way to deal with anyone, let alone elected representatives seeking to restore calm to an area in an already tense situation.

“Only a number of weeks ago I attended a conference in Wales which discussed the PSNI handling of these sorts of public order situations and the impact they have on community confidence in policing. Tonight’s incident is a huge backward step in that process.”

See more pictures here and here


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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