PSNI 'struck deal to allow flag protest'

Published Wednesday, 19 February 2014
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Police allegedly struck a deal with loyalist community representatives to allow a Union flag demonstration parade to take place in Belfast in return for guarantees there would be no violence, a court has heard.

PSNI 'struck deal to allow flag protest'
Protests over Belfast council's flag policy began in December 2012. (© Pacemaker)

Lawyers for Willie Frazer, who said the loyalist campaigner heard about the discussions "on the grapevine", are seeking full disclosure of any documentation from two meetings said to have taken place in the days leading up to the demonstration.

They also want to know the identities of those who were in attendance.

A judge was told, however, that no notes or records were kept.

Names have so far also been held back due to data protection issues.

Mr Frazer, 53, from Markethill, Co Armagh, is currently facing charges linked to the flag dispute in Belfast.

They include encouraging or assisting offences by making a speech outside Belfast City Hall and taking part in an un-notified public procession on 19 January last year.

As part of his defence to the charges his legal team have mounted an application to be given all material from the meetings held earlier that week.

Defence barrister Richard Smyth told Belfast Magistrates' Court, Mr Frazer "heard on the grapevine" that senior police met with community representatives ahead of the 19 January procession.

"In a nutshell, (he heard) that police had reached an agreement with loyalist representatives in east Belfast to allow the parade to take place," Mr Smyth said.

"The quid pro quo was that those on the ground would then ensure no violence."

An Irish News article at the time, reporting that loyalists would be on the streets to bring trouble to an end, strengthened this belief, according to the defence.

Mr Smyth claimed no satisfactory answers have been given to the disclosure requests.

"At the end of the day the defence is not being treated fairly in this case," he said.

"It seems there was a meeting at a senior level with the powers that be, or community leaders for want of a better word, where an agreement was discussed in relation to this march and that was never passed down to the foot soldiers.

"They are now trying to prosecute this particular defendant who was involved on the day, without telling him about this going on in the background."

Questioned by District Judge Fiona Bagnall, a prosecution lawyer confirmed the information from police was that no notes, emails or memos were taken following the meetings.

Mrs Bagnall pointed out that any alleged inconsistencies in the police statements can be dealt with at trial.

Stressing that a reasonable explanation could still be provided, she adjourned the disclosure application for two weeks to allow the prosecution to make further inquiries.

Protests took place in the city and across Northern Ireland after Belfast council voted to fly the Union flag at city hall on designated days.

© UTV News
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18 Comments
PD in Belfast wrote (275 days ago):
It's disgusting that in 2014, people from the outside are still having their view of this beautiful land spoiled by the actions and bigotries of Orange supremacists. It's time these buffoons realised that the native population of Ulster are here, are not going to leave, and deserve to have their culture and heritage representated and celebrated as equals. The tricolour should fly alongside the British flag.
Early in Newtown wrote (276 days ago):
Why does anybody believe anything willy frazer says? Look at his you tube videos and mistakes he has made on social media and the resulting response from the public. Yet everytime he speaks he is in the papers or on the news... The bigger picture is though that not many like being told what to do... We dont want to answer to any kind of authority and thus look at the world today. People need Jesus. And for those who know Him not to be ashamed.
Equality in Belfast wrote (277 days ago):
To the police cant do anything right in ards no they cant but the people of Ardoyne have been calling for talks for years. It is the OO who have stalked these as they think they have some God given right to walk anywhere and intimidate anyone they like. But it is better than not at all now.
the police cant do anything right in ards wrote (277 days ago):
if more people did this I/e ardoyne dispute, we would have less trouble and no on going protests? look at the monies and man power it would save. dont blame the police for trying to bring peace to our streets.
Fox in South Down wrote (277 days ago):
Normally I would believe this, even see it as a good sign of community policing similar to the rest of Western Europe. However since it comes from Willie Frazer....just saying I don't believe much he's ever said or claimed.
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