The PSNI are attempting mass prosecutions in connection with rioting after a loyalist parade was forced through a republican north Belfast community on July 12.
Some 20 individuals are wanted by the PSNI amid evidence that the community is being punished for its resistance to the coat-trailing and provocotive parade. The PSNI is now attempting to obtain footage from Irish RTE television to facilitate further arrests and prosecutions.
On July 12, at the height of the annual Protestant marching season, fighting broke out between nationalist residents and British Crown forces in Ardoyne. It came after hundreds of loyalists -- including known paramilitaries and others carrying paramilitary flags -- were allowed to follow a highly controversial Protestant Orange Order feeder march through the Ardoyne shops area.
The Parades Commission had earlier ruled that only Orange Order members and marshalls would be allowed through. Sectarian taunting by the marchers ignited republican anger and frustration, and British forces moved swiftly to protect the loyalists.
Dozens of nationalists were injured in baton charges by the PSNI. Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly was also injured as he attempted to quell the rioting.
The worst of the clashes are understood to have been captured by RTE television. Yesterday it called on a Belfast judge to protect its independence from the PSNI. The call came as RTE lawyer Paul Spring contested a PSNI application for the media organisation to hand over its footage.
The PSNI has said that the footage was being sought because it strongly believed that the RTE camera crew was in exactly the right position to enable them to identify alleged “offenders”.
Mr Spring said that while RTE and other media outlets did not wish to obstruct justice, their impartiality was sacrosanct.
He argued that it was only because of RTE’s position as a broadcaster that its camera crews had been able to “get close to situations to report them accurately and effectively”, adding that it was not its responsibility to act as an unofficial evidence-gathering agency for the PSNI.
Mr Spring said that camera crews had been threatened in recent years as it became known that their footage would be used to fuel prosecutions.
DPP BACKS PSNI
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin North Belfast assembly member Kathy Stanton said it was ‘not surprising’ that no criticism of the PSNI was made at a meeting this week of the local police board.
“Given the fact that the head of the Policing Board Des Rea had already praised the PSNI for their operation it was not surprising that there was no criticism of the PSNI made,” she said.
“Instead the PSNI told the meeting that they had compiled a wanted list of people they intended to arrest and charge over the events in Ardoyne.”
Sinn Féin is being urged to take part in the district policing partnerships, despite their increasing support for oppressive acts by the PSNI.
“We can be rest assured that none of those to be arrested are members of the PSNI or British Army,” said Stanton. “We can be rest assured that no members of the Orange Order or their followers will be amongst those arrested.
“The fact that the PSNI deliberately breached a Parades Commission determination was not an issue for the DPP. The fact that the PSNI forced a UDA mob through three nationalist areas was not an issue for the DPP. The deployment of the Paras into a nationalist area in Belfast was not an issue for the DPP.
“These facts do more to tell the nationalist community in areas like Ardoyne what the focus of the supposed policing accountability mechanisms actually is.
“The Belfast DPP will not and cannot hold the PSNI to account for events such as those witnessed in Ardoyne on July 12th.”