Mac Cionnaith arrest outs RUC bigots
BY FERN LANE
The already high levels of tension in Portadown ahead of the first Orange Order march on Sunday 2 July were heightened still further - and completely unnecessarily - when residents' leader Councillor Breandán Mac Cionnaith was arrested by the RUC on Saturday 1 July. Mac Cionnaith had gone to try and resolve some minor disturbances which broke out on Garvaghy Road when a large force of RUC moved in to protect loyalists putting up an Orange Arch at the bottom of the Garvaghy Road.
Mac Cionnaith was at home on Saturday morning when local residents came to him to inform him about a strong RUC presence at the arch. By that stage, five young nationalists had already been arrested.
``I went up there and spoke to a group of nationalists and then went over to speak to an RUC inspector to ask him what was happening,'' he told An Phoblacht. ``He completely blanked me; just totally ignored me, but I told him that I was going down to try and keep a lid on things.''
At that point, however, an RUC Land Rover drew up and Mac Cionnaith was arrested and bundled into the vehicle. A young man who approached the officers to enquire about what was happening was then also arbitrarily arrested and thrown into the back of the Land Rover.
MacCionnaith was taken, together with those others arrested, to Lurgan RUC barracks and held for two and a quarter hours before being charged with assault, disorderly conduct and behaviour likely to incite a breach of the peace. He was also cautioned with obstruction after he refused, on the advise of his solicitor Pádraigín Drinan, to give fingerprints or DNA samples. Drinan, who represents the residents of the Garvaghy Road, was also threatened with arrest and obstruction charges after she advised all those detained to do the same on the grounds that the charges being brought against them were unfair. Mac Cionnaith was released on £500 bail and is due to appear in court in a fortnight's time.
When he refused to provide fingerprints, Mac Cionnaith was also threatened with violence. ``Six officers came into the room and told me `We can do this by force if we have to','' he said, although once he pointed out that such a course of action would require the written authorisation of the senior officer, the threat did not materialise.
However, Saturday's events were, as Mac Cionnaith points out, not really about the small incident at the Orange arch at all. ``What it was actually about was these RUC men, who are going to have to police decisions that they don't agree with during the next few weeks, thinking `because of him we are going to have to be attacked by fellow members of the loyalist community, so let's get one back'.''