Police federation calls for parades ban

Police federation calls for parades ban

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland has called for a voluntary ban on all contentious parades for the next six months until all-party talks are held on issues including parading and flags.

Terry Spence, Chairman of the body which represents almost 7,000 police officers in the region, has said the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers should convene an urgent meeting on the matter.

He has called for the main political parties to persuade the loyal orders, republican organisations and protest groups to suspend all contentious parading and demonstrations until the talks hosted by Richard Haas on issues including parading disputes and flags are completed.

His statement comes after scenes of violence in which 56 police officers were injured as loyalist protestors clashed with police lines ahead of an anti-internment rally in Belfast city centre on Friday.

Four men have appeared in court on Monday charged in connection with the trouble - three have been bailed and a 19-year-old has been remanded in custody.

Eight officers were also hurt on Thursday night during disorder at an anti-internment bonfire in west Belfast.

Parades by the Apprentice Boys on Saturday and a republican IRA commemoration on Sunday went off peacefully.

Since July last year over 500 officers have been injured.

Terry Spence, Police Federation for Northern Ireland

"The behaviour of protestors is murderous and lawless," Mr Spence commented.

"We cannot go on with this rate of attrition when it is clear that the PSNI lacks sufficient resources and mutual aid is proving too clumsy a mechanism to generate the number of properly trained and armed officers needed in sufficient time to maintain law and order.

"Northern Ireland needs this six-month breathing space to allow constructive political engagement between the parties and frankly, the police need it to rebuild a service properly resourced to deal with the policing realities. Officers are working around the clock and are fatigued."

He continued: "The fact that Richard Haas is coming to deal with these issues is an indictment of all our politicians that they seem incapable of coming to terms with the challenging problems of Northern Ireland.

"The hundreds of injuries being inflicted on my police colleagues, who have all without exception, shown tremendous courage despite the inadequate resources available to them, is further evidence of political failure."

Speaking at a press briefing, PSNI Detective Superintendent Sean Wright said pieces of scaffolding, bricks and steel guttering were thrown at police during the rioting.

Anyone who throws that type of material at police or other members of the public runs the risk of killing somebody. That is the stark reality of this disorder.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Sean Wright

"We've already seen people charged and before the court for the attempted murder of police officers. We will be investigating all those attacks," he said.

"If people think for one moment that this is just a wee bit of recreational rioting, 'lets go out and throw a few bricks at police for a bit of sport', it's far from sport, this really could result in police or other members of the public being killed. And we will deal with that robustly."

Det Supt Wright said dealing with disorder since loyalist flag protests in December has put a strain on officers.

"I think the evidence of our ability to deal with it was further highlighted again over the weekend," he added.

"We had officers standing in the front line, professional, disciplined, courageous, dealing with the disorder in a proportionate and well disciplined manner."

He said he would be working to support front line officers to bring those involved before the courts.

DUP Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said his party favoured "a long-term solution".

"The police are often placed in an incredibly difficult situation around parade disputes and that is one of the reasons that we must ensure that a long-term solution to issues surrounding parades and protests is found

"Whilst it might be possible to understand the motivation behind calling for a six month ban on contentious parades this will not provide a long-term solution and it may not even reduce problems in the short-term," he said.

These are extraordinary circumstances that require an extraordinary response.

Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP Party Leader

North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said he was in favour of the temporary halt on parades.

"I think we have to give an area a space, a time, especially with the Haas talks coming up, they are time-framed," he said.

"If we could have some sort of moratorium which allows for those talks to take place I think that would be very helpful."

SDLP Party Leader Alasdair McDonnell also backed the Police Federation's calls.

"It is clear that the Parades Commission cannot ban marches and the Secretary of State can only ban marches on a case by case basis but all of those involved could voluntarily suspend marching for the coming months during the Haass talks process," he added.

"A moratorium on all parades would ensure that no disagreement of over what constitutes a contentious parade could be allowed to develop and fester."

"The violence around the 12th and the anti-internment march at the weekend as well as the negative impact of the Castlederg march commemorating IRA bombers has only succeeded in souring the political process."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt condemned the violence but had reservations about Mr Spence's proposal.

"Parades are only one of the issues that you might want to address in terms of a breathing space," he said.

"When you start talking about, what do you mean by contentious parades, are you talking about remembrance Sunday?

"You can't put that on hold. So it needs a bit of thought, I'm not questioning his (Mr Spence's)integrity or motivation but I think we need to think a little bit deeper about how we create the circumstances to maximise the potential for Haas to deliver something that's truly fair and solves some of these long-standing issues," he added.


Elsewhere on the Web

More Top Stories

UTV Digest

Your daily digest of the most popular UTV Stories

Back to Top