The Police Ombudsman has been asked to investigate the assault of a Sinn Féin politician by the PSNI police at a weekend loyalist parade.

On Friday, residents in the County Antrim village of Rasharkin endured a night of intimidation by gangsters carrying the flags and symbols of unionist murder gangs and death squads.

Thirty-five bands, many with connections to the paramilitary UDA and UVF, and more than 1,000 “supporters” marched through the predominantly nationalist village.

Prominent north Antrim loyalist Christopher ‘Goosey’ Gray, led one of the bands, while others displayed tributes to dead paramilitaries Geoffrey Freeman and William Campbell.

Nationalist residents opposed to the march noted almost 60 breaches of guidelines set down by the Parades Commission, which is supposed to ruie on controversial parades. It was while noting these breaches that Ballymoney councillor Daithi McKay was assaulted.

Councillor McKay also said PSNI members planned to get a police dog to attack him during the contentious march.

“The aggressive policing that was witnessed on Friday night has been reported to the Police Obudsman’s office,” he said.

“There was no need for attack dogs to be brought up behind residents and it was no surprise when residents witnessed one PSNI member loosen his lead to allow his alsatian dog, which is obvious professionally trained, to attack myself.

“The assault by another PSNI member immediately after this will also be referred to the Ombudsman’s office for investigation.”

Mr McKay also criticised the Parades Commission for not making a determination on the loyalist parade

“The Parades Commission’s decision not to issue a determination on this parade has, as expected, been the wrong one.

“There was intimidation reported by people who were sitting in their homes, obviously fearful of what these hundreds of loyalists could do, if the threatening gestures made were followed through with.”

Councillor McKay said that by not placing restrictions on the parade the commission had given “the green light for intimidation, loyalist paramilitary displays and other inexcusable behaviour without any repercussions whatsoever”.

One resident, who did not wish to be named, said that a bandsman exposed himself after noticing her filming the parade from a window in her house.

“He saw me filming and started waving, then got out his phone and started videoing me,” she said.

“Another fella beside him started doing the same. Then he exposed himself to me.”

Mr McKay said the DUP’s support of the coat-trailing paramilitary parade was “indicative” of its attitude to sectarian gangs in north Antrim.

“The DUP position of supporting this parade whilst turning a blind eye to the UDA and UVF involvement is an untenable one,” he said.

The Sinn Féin councillor also said he intended making a complaint to the Police Ombudsman about “aggressive” policing, adding that he had been assualted by an officer.

“Residents in the village are now in the process of collating the evidence of breaches of the commission decision and code of conduct,” Mr McKay said.

“And in the absence of any meaningful dialogue over the next year, this parade clearly needs to be heavily restricted.”

Nationalist residents had applied to hold a counter protest of 200 people, but the commission restricted numbers to 100.

Residents are also angry that parade organisers refuse to meet them to discuss their concerns.


Meanwhile, in an apparently self-contradictory statement, the Parades Commission has said it will no longer accept any group refusing to engage in dialogue over contentious marches.

The ultimatum is seen as a warning to the Orange Order and Royal Black Institution who refuse to talk either to nationalist residents or the commission.

In what is being seen as a hardening of his position, commission chairman Roger Poole warned: “From this autumn onwards we will be seeking an increased drive towards meaningful, local dialogue and accommodation throughout Northern Ireland.

“Where it is clear to us that one side, for whatever reason, is not prepared to engage in dialogue with all protagonists to a particular dispute, that is a factor which will weigh heavily in our consideration of disputed parades going forward.”

An Orange Order spokesman reacted angrily to Mr Poole’s warning.

“We will not be blackmailed into anything by an unelected and discredited quango,” he said.

“The order will review our position as we do every year but we certainly won’t be pushed around by anyone.”

Nationalist residents’ spokesman Brendan Mac Cionnaith was sceptical about whether the commission would follow through on its warning.

“Throughout the marching season the loyal orders refused to engage in dialogue over dozens of contentious marches but were still allowed parades,” he said.

Sinn Féin accused the Parades Commission of contradicting itself ahead of another controversial Protestant parade.

The commission has allowed next Saturday’s parade route by the Royal Black Preceptory in Castlederg, County Tyrone, to include the nationalist areas of the town.

But Sinn Féin councillor Charlie McHugh said the decision was at odds with the Parades Commission’s own stance.

“On the one hand we have in these determinations criticism by the Parades Commission of the continued refusal by the Royal Black Preceptory to sit down with local nationalist residents and discuss the vexed issue of parades through continuous routes in Castlederg.

“On the other hand the Parades Commission go on to reward this refusal to talk by giving the Royal Black Preceptory permission to march through the nationalist Priests Lane, Ferguson Crescent area... four times in total next Saturday,” he said.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News