BAN CONTROVERSIAL PARADES FOR SIX, SAYS POLICE UNION BOSS

Terry Spence says there should a six month ban on contentious parades to allow for political talks

Terry Spence says there should a six month ban on contentious parades to allow for political talks

THE union chairman representing rank and file PSNI officers has called for a six month ban on contentious parades.

Terry Spence of the Police Federation made the call following a senior PSNI officer’s assessment that loyalists were intent on violence during Friday night’s protest against a republican parade in Belfast.

Terry Spence said a parades moratorium would allow political representatives to find a solution to the issue.

On Friday evening, serious violence erupted in Belfast city centre after loyalist protesters blocked a republican parade on Royal Avenue.

A total of 56 police officers were injured during the trouble. A number of civilians were also injured, including UUP MLA Michael Copeland along with his wife and daughter.

Police fired 26 plastic bullets and made eight arrests during rioting in Royal Avenue which Chief Constable Matt Baggott described as “sheer thuggery”.

On a ban on controversial parades, Mr Spence said: “It would give everyone a breathing space so that Richard Haass, the special envoy from the United States, can do his work and it also gives the police service time to consolidate their position.

“What we need is an urgent surge in resources, because it is quite obvious on the basis of what has been happening over the past year that the police service is stretched to the limit.”

PSNI riot squad officer knocked out after struck by metal missile in Royal Avenue on Friday night

PSNI riot squad officer knocked out after struck by metal missile in Royal Avenue on Friday night

Asssistant Chief Constable George Hamilton has said loyalist protestors opposed to a republican parade in Belfast city centre on Friday evening were intent on violence.

Hours before the parade, Belfast Daily revealed that police feared violence from both loyalists and republicans during the parade.

Some commanders were concerned that there were would not be enough resources on the ground if things turned violent.

Loyalists bused in protestors from Antrim, Down and Armagh to bolster numbers for the anti-republican protest in Royal Avenue.

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said none of the loyalist protest groups appeared to show any leadership that would have prevented the violence.

“It was pretty clear to us from about half past five on Friday that there was a significant number, probably the majority of people on Royal Avenue, determined not to engage properly with the police, but probably had some violent intent,” he said.

“There was no semblance of any organisation or co-ordination or leadership from any protest group, we just couldn’t see it.

“We didn’t see at any point, and we were monitoring it all week as you can imagine, any mobilisation to protest in a way that people had notified to the Parades Commission, it just simply didn’t happen.

“Instead what we saw was chaos, disorganisation and violence being meted out against our officers.”

The aftermath of rioting in Royal Avenue on Friday night

The aftermath of rioting in Royal Avenue on Friday night

ACC Hamilton said he did not think there had been too few police at the protests, saying they were “only so many police officers you can put into Royal Avenue”.

He said he was amazed how frontline officers were able to maintain good morale despite the violence.

“The resilience and the tenacity of our rank and file officers simply amazes me, I am extremely proud of them,” he said.

“We had 56 officers injured on Friday night, several of them with significant enough injuries, who were insisting on going back on the frontline.

“Many of those people, even those who left the frontline on Friday night, were back at work at half past five on Saturday morning to travel to Derry/Londonderry to uphold other people’s rights to parade around the city.”

Parades Commission chairman Peter Osborne said Friday’s violence in Belfast stood in marked contrast to a peaceful parade in Londonderry on Saturday.

“On Saturday 5,000 Apprentice Boys held their annual parade in Derry/Londonderry without rancour and with a sense of celebration and cooperation,” he said.

“By contrast on Friday we witnessed in Belfast scenes of unwarranted lawlessness by people intent on violence. No excuses justify the violence.”

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