15 February 2001 Edition

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Over the top RUC

Sinn Féin has described an RUC operation in Armagh City in which one man and four children were arrested as a complete `over the top response' and has accused the RUC of brutality towards the youths. The party says that the manner in which the RUC behaved was absolutely disgraceful.

These comments came in response to an RUC operation on Thursday night, 8 February, at the Ring Road. At a time when Catholic homes in North Belfast are being targeted in nightly attacks a major security operation was mounted to arrest youths with pellet guns. Not all of these youths were arrested in the same spot and it is clear that the RUC went looking for targets.

However, this was only the start of the fiasco. It seems that the RUC were working on some form of intelligence as they were lying in wait. This intelligence was wrong, as it was should also have informed them that they were dealing mostly with 14- and 15-year-olds. They pounced on some of these youths, dragging them into the tunnel where they assaulted them. The youths were handcuffed, processed and taken away to Gough Barracks. From here, these youths were held for almost two days. Such an experience is bound to have a traumatic effect on youngsters of that age.

This on its own was disgraceful but there was more to come. Not content with assaulting these youths and terrorising them at Gough Barracks, the RUC then set about a misinformation campaign. It was reported that five men were arrested with guns. This was a deliberate lie. Four of these `men' were in fact juveniles. Following the arrests, the homes of these youths were raided and property taken. In a major operation involving paratroopers and the RUC, the area around McAnearney's lane was sealed off until nearly lunchtime the following day. Reports were deliberately circulated claiming that guns, pipe bombs and explosives were found. It is Sinn Féin's belief that the RUC were behind this misinformation in order to cover up their actions.

``Parents need to remind their children of the danger they are placign themselves in by having these pellet guns,'' said Sinn Féin Assembly member Pat McNamee. ``Nevertheless, the RUC's response was typically aggressive and inappropriate. They do not behave like a police force, but break and bend their own rules at will and are totally unaccountable.''

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