Republican News · Thursday 13 January 1999

[An Phoblacht]

SDLP back one-sided RUC

The SDLP in South Belfast is at the centre of a row over its support and encouragement for a planned RUC arrest operation directed at local youths who congregate at Finaghy Halt in South Belfast.

The arrest plan, according to a local man who spoke to An Phoblacht, planned in conjunction with Northern Ireland Railways (NIR), was aimed at the local youths who ``only hang out around the local railway station because they have nowhere safe to go around the area''.

The planned operation, according to our source, would involve the RUC hiring a train and putting plain clothes members aboard. As the train pulls into Finaghy Halt, RUC members would move against the youths and, supported by backup units in side streets, round them up.

News of the arrest plan only came to light when the RUC announced it at a so-called residents group meeting held in the area on 9 December last. Local SDLP councillor Carmel Hanna was amongst a small group of individuals attending an ``invitation only'' meeting with the RUC. ``This group does not represent local residents,'' said an angry resident. ``They have given the RUC a free hand to harass local youths and many parents are very angry.''

The meeting is the latest in a series of meetings in the area, which have become the centre of controversy themselves. Local people have complained that the meetings have focused on a single issue which targets nationalist youths while failing to address increasing sectarian attacks by loyalists on young people in the area.

``Our young people have been targeted by loyalists and beaten up at Finaghy crossroads,'' said the resident. ``They have been attacked while going to the youth club at St Anne's in attacks that have sometimes been random but in other cases the attacks have been pre-planned. The young people are afraid to leave the area and so hang out at Finaghy Halt.

``The people at the meeting who are encouraging the RUC to arrest these youths are giving the RUC a free reign to terrorise our children,'' our source said. He explained that in the last two years there have been numerous attacks on young Catholic people, four in the past few weeks. The latest attack was last Friday, 7 January, when a loyalist came out of Benmore, off Finaghy Road South, and attacked three local youths. A passerby intervened and stopped the attack before any of the youths were badly hurt.

``As far as we are concerned, the RUC do not care about these attacks and I know that they have not even questioned some of those suspected of carrying them out,'' said our source. ``The RUC have said that they can't prevent the loyalist attacks because they don't have the resources.''

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