A nationalist SDLP councillor had to be given a police escort from a meeting disrupted by a Paisleyite mob in Ballymena, County Antrim last night.
The intimidation is understood to have been in response to comments he made about the arrest of three nationalists during a parade in Ballymena last weekend.
Declan O’Loan, chairman of the local District Policing Partnership, was subjected to intense sectarian abuse by around 50 unionists as he tried to start the meeting in a village hall.
Despite his efforts three times to get the meeting under way he was shouted down by DUP supporters singing God Save the Queen and waving Union Jacks.
Mr O’Loan eventually had to be given a police escort from the village hall as violence was threatened.
Earlier this week, Councillor O’Loan accused the PSNI police of punching a young man while he was under arrest and bundling him into a police van “with unnecessary force”. A 56-year-old woman and a male motorist were also charged with public order offences.
The “arrests” were made as the latest unionist parade marched through a nationalist part of the town.
The SDLP said the PSNI had harassed public representatives “as if assuming they were trouble-makers”.
“I was there as a political representative along with my colleagues in my party,” said Mr. O’Loan. “We were witnesses to events.”
The Police Ombudsman, who happens to be the wife of Mr O’Loan, is to investigate the policing operation.
Sinn Féin’s Philip McGuigan also lambasted what he described as the “heavy handed and sectarian nature” of the PSNI in Ballymena towards the nationalist community.
“It is obvious from the partisan treatment handed out to the Nationalist and Republican community of Ballymena that the PSNI here in Ballymena operate in a sectarian manner,” he said. “They don’t even try and cover up this fact.”
Mr McGuigan also said it was about time the Parades Commission made a determination banning what he called ‘sectarian and triumphalist parades’ from the Nationalist North end of the town.
“These parades are unwelcome here by the residents who live in this part of Ballymena. It is simply not good enough that the parades commission and the PSNI are cheerleaders for sectarianism.”
DERRY MARCH DEAL
The Orange Order will walk through the streets of nationalist Derry as part of a unprecedented deal between the Bogside Residents’ Group and the Protestant Orange Order, it has been revealed.
The chamber of commerce in Derry acted to bring the Orange Order and the Bogside Residents’ Group to the negotiating table. Previous talks on marches in Derry were limited to those by the Apprentice Boys’ organisation.
Approximately 3,500 Orangemen will parade through the city centre on July 12, in a march lasting only one hour and expected to be concluded by noon.
Donnacha Mac Niallais of the Bogside Residents Group said he hoped the Orange Order would now respect the wishes of the majority of people in Derry.
A spokesman for the chamber of commerce in the city said: “We have worked with all interested parties to ensure that celebrations by all loyal orders could take place in an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding of the needs of all citizens and visitors.
He added: “The economic, social and cultural development of the city for the benefit of all remains a core mission of the chamber. It is pleased to have played a part in the development of unique processes to deal with loyal order parades. The establishment of agreements between all interested parties in relation to marches sends positive messages to the world at large.”
As unionist violence continues ahead of the hieght of the marching season, a Protestant teenager with an Irish name had her home petrol-bombed because they thought she was a Catholic.
Nineteen-year-old Roisin Orr was asleep when the device exploded outside her front door. Ms Orr, a Presbyterian, said her attackers had tried to put the petrol bomb through the window in Castlereagh, County Down.
“I go to a Presbyterian church but because of my name a lot of people make the assumption that I am a Catholic,” she explained. “It is not an issue with me but it is with some narrow-minded people.”