Short Strand man granted leave in flag bid

Published Friday, 01 February 2013
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A Short Strand resident who believes the ongoing flag protests should be treated as illegal parades has been granted leave to seek a judicial review.

Short Strand man granted leave in flag bid
Solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh represented the Short Strand resident at High Court. (© Pacemaker)

A weekly demonstration has taken place at Belfast City Hall every Saturday since the council decision in December to limit the flying of the Union flag to 18 designated days.

Some protestors returning from the demonstration to east Belfast passed the Short Strand interface, where violence broke out and a number of houses were damaged last month.

The resident, who was granted anonymity at the start of proceedings, claimed the protests should be treated as parades, making them an offence if the Parades Commission is not notified.

Under the terms of the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998, which was established following major disorder across Northern Ireland linked to the Drumcree dispute, notification of parades must be given to the Parades Commission.

On Friday, the applicant sought leave to apply for a judicial review of the actions of the PSNI in their policing operation surrounding the protests and of the Secretary of State for her refusal to prohibit them.

Barrister Karen Quinlivan QC said the legislation was being repeatedly violated.

"It's our case that the police response has effectively facilitated and encouraged a wholesale bypass of the legislative scheme put in place by Parliament to deal with contentious parades in Northern Ireland," she claimed.

Every single participant in that march is engaged in illegal activity. Every single participant ought to be arrested and prosecuted for breach of the legislation.

Karen Quinlivan, QC

Ms Quinlivan questioned why no action was being taken against organisers appearing on television shows and in the press.

"It's one thing for loyalists to flout the law, it's another thing for the police to facilitate that," she added.

Solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh said his client felt he had "no alternative" but to bring the case to the High Court.

"We've had two months now of disorder and illegal parades through this area.

"This could have been prevented from going to court if they had a different policing strategy in relation to these illegal parades or indeed an intervention from the Secretary of State," he explained.

Mr Justice Treacy said the situation appeared to be improving, and expressed concern that court proceedings could be counter-productive.

But Ms Quinlivan replied that evidence shows things are getting worse rather than better.

"People are feeling more and more besieged, people are feeling more and more threatened," she said.

A statement from Sinn Féin's Niall Ó Donnghaile - who appeared in court with his party colleague Alex Maskey - was read, in which the local councillor said residents feel unsupported by police.

Tony McGleenan QC, representing the PSNI and Secretary of State, said because the Parades Commission had not been made aware of the demonstrations, the challenge fell outside the governing legislation.

It's quite wrong to say the police are turning a blind eye to illegality and facilitating public disorder.

Tony McGleenan, QC

He revealed that 128 officers have been injured during violence and 181 people have been arrested, with 128 charged.

"Police have devoted massive resources in dealing with difficulties since 3 December," he said.

Mr Justice Treacy ruled an arguable case had been established against both the PSNI and Secretary of State.

"This case does raise important points both in relation to the obligations on the PSNI and also on the Secretary of State," he added.

He granted leave to apply for a judicial review and listed the case for a full two-day hearing in April.

Mr Maskey welcomed the decision and said he believes the Short Strand community will be satisfied with the ruling.

"While everybody hopes that these marches will be brought to an end, this community cannot go on being affected in such a manner and have taken action in the courts.

"It is now abundantly clear from this decision that both the PSNI Chief Constable and the British Secretary of State have a case to answer. It is a disgrace that that Short Strand residents have had to endure this level of intimidation and disruption on an ongoing basis," the Sinn Féin MLA for South Belfast added.

© UTV News
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47 Comments
Big Toe in A Rage wrote (660 days ago):
It is a sad state of affairs when a resident from ShortStrand has to go to the courts to get the police to do there job. SF have lied to nationalists about the police changing. Gerry Kelly member of policing board, exactly what influence do you have?. I am thinking zero. SF wont be getting my vote again. Looks like the inner circle within the RUC/PSNI, have nt gone away you know.
Paul in London wrote (661 days ago):
Clare, NI IS a province, called Ulster 1 of 4 in Ireland.
Laura in Belfast wrote (662 days ago):
Double standards Laura? I think not. Everyone has the right to protest but not in the way it the PUL community have gone about it, they have even lost the majority of support from their own community and politicians. Just last week a DUP councillor in Rathcoole was attacked by the mob blocking a road when he tried to talk to them. As for things working out the way Sinn Fein planned? I fail to see how anyone but those engaging in illegal parades and violence, (who had 18 months to plan their strategy instead of engaging during discussions around the flag), could have seen this coming. The removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall was brought about by a democratic decision involving the duly elected representatives, the decision to fly on designated days was passed by the majority from 3 political parties at both committee and full council. The decision also brought Belfast into line with policy at the majority of other local councils, Stormont, Westminster and councils throughout the UK, how can the PUL community justify an action which brings them into line wit the rest of their own country? As for the PUL community being hurt that their flag has come down, except on designated days, have they given thought to the hurt the Nationalist community have felt during all the years the flag flew? Stop blaming the Alliance party and Sinn Fein for the actions of others, it was a decision made by individuals to act as they have, put the blame where it belongs, at their feet. As for revisiting the problem and reinstating the flag, that would send a message that mob rule and violence would eventually get you want you want, it would set a dangerous precedent for the future.
its a joke in bangor wrote (662 days ago):
i hate the british way of life here so i will use the courts to gripe and get the tax payers of the u.k. to pay for it,whats next, you want the queen removed from the coinage of the country?
mr white in reservoir dogs wrote (662 days ago):
To Mr/miss/Mrs/ms dundonald who lives in dundonald; I enjoyed reading your eloquent comment. Daft, but one could tell you put thought into it. The problem is not the decision. The problem is the loyalist minority. Was the decision to declare war on Germany once they invaded Poland the wrong one considering the obvious consequences? The times are a changing here in Ireland. No longer is it an orange state. That flag does not represent the majority of people here. Equality for all.
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