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25 May 2000 Edition

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Councillor arrested on way to council

Sinn Féin is to make representations to the Dublin government and the NIO after an incident in which one of the party's councillors was arrested by the RUC while on his way to a council meeting in Craigavon.

Sinn Féin Councillor John O'Dowd said his arrest by the RUC on his way to Monday night's council meeting was a clear intervention by the RUC in the democratic process and an infringement of his party's voters' rights.

The councillor said the car in which he was travelling was stopped by an RUC mobile patrol, which came up behind his car with sirens blaring and lights flashing on the Lake Road. The RUC officer who approached the car adopted a hostile and aggressive attitude as soon as he spoke to the driver.

``I told the RUC officer my name and the fact that I was a councillor but I was treated with contempt, as was my request to be allowed to continue on my journey so as I could attend the council meeting,'' said O'Dowd.

Invoking emergency legislation, the RUC then carried out a search of the vehicle. ``It was pure harassment,'' said O'Dowd. ``I refused to answer any more questions and was subjected to further derogatory remarks by the RUC.''

The councillor was ordered out of the vehicle and subjected to a body search before being arrested under emergency legislation - ``The RUC claimed I had refused to identify myself.''

O'Dowd was taken to Lurgan RUC barracks, where the custody sergeant took details from the arresting officers before releasing him. The delayed councillor then made his way to Craigavon Council, where a meeting was taking place.

But the harassment continued. As John was returning home, the car in which he was travelling was stopped by an RIR patrol. They informed him they intended to search the vehicle. ``I identified myself,'' said O'Dowd, ``and asked to speak to the RUC officer accompanying the patrol.'' The Sinn Féin councillor informed the RUC officer of the earlier incident and told him that his party would be alerting the Dublin government and the NIO to the matter.

``Reluctantly, he allowed us to continue our journey, said O'Dowd, ``but where is all the normalisation we hear about? What chance have nationalists to go about their daily business free from crown force harassment if their elected representatives are treated in his manner while going to and from council meetings?

``This kind of harassment is a consequence of the British government's failure to deliver a new policing service.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1