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25 September 1997 Edition

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Garvaghy fury at RUC claims

by Laura Friel
"It must be a joke, but no one on the Garvaghy Road is laughing," said Tria Ni Chormaic, responding to RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan's claim that his officers used "all possible restraint" when removing residents from the Garvaghy Road last July.

Tria, a student nurse, was attending a seriously injured man when she was targeted by the RUC. "The injured man had been shot in the throat by a plastic bullet and was having difficulty breathing, I shouted I was attending the wounded but the RUC kept firing. I was hit in the leg with a plastic bullet." The RUC fired around 2,500 plastic baton rounds on the Garvaghy Road this summer.

Flanagan's remarks, made during a routine meeting with the Police Authority last week, has outraged nationalist residents, many of whom were seriously injured and traumatised by the RUC's actions. "People on the Garvaghy Road are still suffering the after-effects of RUC brutality," said Tria, "several people have taken nervous breakdowns, and many more have required treatment for stress related illness."

RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan is currently facing more than 200 law suits taken by Portadown nationalists who claim the RUC used excessive force to remove residents peacefully protesting against a march by the Orange Order through a nationalist estate. A further six test cases are to be taken to the European Court of Human Rights. Local Councillor Breandan Mac Cionnaith said residents had decided to take their case to Europe because of the length of time British courts took to deal with complaints against the RUC. "There are 100 case of assault pending from last year's Drumcree crisis. 500 cases outstanding following the RUC curfew on the Ormeau Road. 14 months later and not one case has been heard."

RUC brutality continues The brutality of the RUC did not end with the Orange parade. Colleen McNally, together with several hundred other residents, was forcibly dragged from the Garvaghy Road in the morning of 6 July but her ordeal was not over. In the early hours of Monday 7 July, Colleen was walking home from her sister's house. To avoid walking through loyalist areas, Garvaghy Road residents regularly use a short cut through a local park when visiting family and friends in the nearby Obins Street. "I suddenly realised the park was full of British soldiers and members of the RUC, about 60 or 70 and a number of vehicles," said Colleen.

As Colleen approached, one RUC officer remarked "look who's coming". Colleen recognised the RUC officer. During the residents' sitdown protest of the day before, he had been directing other RUC officers. "He pointed people out and said, "take that one", said Colleen, "and then other RUC officers moved in and dragged that person from the crowd."

In the park, the RUC officer shouted, "Get that fucking bitch in the back." Colleen was confronted by four or five RUC men. " I can't describe how frightening it was. I was alone, it was dark, for a moment I was afraid of being raped." She was gripped by the hair, dragged off her feet, thrown face down into the back of a jeep and driven to the barracks. "They sat on me the whole way. I was held face down on the floor of the jeep, my hair was pulled and my head banged repeatedly. I was called a fucking bitch and a fenian bastard by the RUC."

On release, Colleen's doctor sent her immediately to Craigavon hospital where she received 7 x-rays. "My eyes were black, there were lumps on my head, my entire body was covered with cuts and bruises." A two-page report detailing Colleen's injuries was compiled by a hospital consultant. RUC brutality on the Garvaghy Road continues. Three weeks ago Colleen's 13-year-old son, Ruairi, recieved three stitches in the back of his head after being batoned by the RUC.

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