Irish Republican News · December 3, 2009
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
PSNI admits ‘facilitating’ sectarian mob

The PSNI have confirmed they agreed to a loyalist mob gathering in Portadown shortly before a 200-strong crowd rioted outside a bar in the town centre.

Last month, text messages circulated widely in the Portadown area calling on loyalists to march on the bar to “show republicans that we will not tolerate their behaviour or presence in our area”.

The PSNI said they had permitted the gathering, but later described it as “illegal” - only because they had been told the protesters would disperse quietly.

A loyalist mob is being gathered for a second time this weekend, according to reports, in the same area of the town centre where nationalists occasionally dare to visit.

There is a long history of the intimidation and assault of nationalists who attempt to socialise in Portadown town centre.

Over the years, many have been murdered by pro-British death-squads: Jack McCabe, Felix Hughes, Eamon McMahon, Joey Weir, Thomas Trainor, Dennis Kelly, Martin McConville, Robert Hamill and Adrian Lamph are all Catholics who have died at the hands of unionist gangs within and adjacent to the area of the main commercial centre in Portadown.

Many other Portadown Catholics have been assaulted and wounded in the same commercial area while going about their everyday business.

Intense sectarianism against the Catholic residents of the town’s Garvaghy Road enclave is also a factor in the long-running dispute over the annual Drumcree march through the estate by the Protestant Orange Order.

Nationalist politicians have said the show of strength was a clear effort to drive nationalists out of the town centre and expressed concern that the bar -- the focus of loyalist attention -- is close to the location of the sectarian murder of Catholic man Robert Hamill in 1997.

SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly said she had been told by the PSNI that it had allowed up to 30 people to hold a “protest” but 150 had turned up.

Speaking on behalf of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition Breandan MacCionnaith expressed concern at the tactics of the PSNI.

“The PSNI in Portadown, like the RUC before them, have in the past turned a blind eye to loyalist intimidation and attacks in Portadown.

“By permitting this intimidatory mob to assemble in the first place, the PSNI ensured a clear message was sent out signaling that Portadown town centre is not a welcome or safe place at night for Catholics or nationalists. That is totally and completely objectionable and abhorrent and cannot be justified under any circumstances.

Mac Cionnaith said the incident “was not unlike previous unionist/loyalist campaigns in this town a decade ago which the police force also deliberately ignored and which were directed at ensuring no Catholic or nationalist person could feel safe going about their normal lives in Portadown.

“Many people are quite rightly today asking if anything has really changed since then?”

eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson said that the PSNI and unionist gangs are intent on making Portadown town centre a no-go area for nationalists.

“Matt Baggott must explain why his force facilitated the holding of a ‘demonstration’ which was clearly aimed at fomenting religious hatred.

“Despite the menacing nature of text messages that had been circulating among unionists in the town for weeks, the PSNI actually agreed to allow the mob to gather outside the bar in question. One can only imagine the fear those in the bar must have felt when they witnessed a gang of 200 sectarian thugs gathering outside.

“This was purely an attempt by unionist bigots to prevent nationalists from socialising in their own town centre.”

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© 2009 Irish Republican News