Calling the PSNI to account
Calling the PSNI to account

A Derry priest has said he is shocked by accusations of harassment against the PSNI police made by republican families in the city.

Fr Paddy O’Kane met some republican supporters in Rosemount in the city on Wednesday to hear of their treatment at the hands of the PSNI.

The Holy Family Parish priest said he had heard “harrowing” stories from people who were “angry and afraid”.

Among those present were family members and children of local republicans who had been singled out for “special attention” by the PSNI, in a campaign of harassment, intimidation and occasional brutality.

The Catholic priest, who agreed to the meeting after talks with the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, said that he had also heard “very worrying questions” about the impartiality of the Police Ombudsman.

Prominent Derry republican Gary Donnelly, who attended the meeting, dismissed reports which suggested the meeting had a broader agenda.

“What this is about is children and pensioners meeting a priest to discuss the harassment they have suffered,” Mr Donnelly said.

“When I met Fr O’Kane [last week] I told him that while he was condemning republicans he should also speak out against the harassment of the families of republican activists,” he said.

“This is happening but there appears to be a lynch-mob mentality that says if anyone speaks out about this or highlights it, they are seen as being against the peace process.”

One of those Fr O’Kane heard from was local man Ciaran Boyle, who said his young son had been traumatised following a PSNI assault.

“I’m a republican but I’m also a father of a five-year-old boy who was tore from a car by armed members of the PSNI.

“There was a woman in the shop opposite where we were searched who came running out and took the child away because she feared for his safety as the PSNI were pointing guns at the car.”

Others present recounted similar PSNI behaviour, ranging from serious violence to more routine harassment.

The families’ claims and Fr O’Kane’s remarks were a cause for concern, Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson said.

“It is important that we have a policing service that complies with the highest standards of human rights and if there is evidence of harassment or other human rights abuse I will pursue those cases to bring the officers to account,” the Foyle Assembly member said.

She said Sinn Fein was committed to deliver “accountable policing”.

“The PSNI must be human rights compliant and operate in a way that keeps the public safe but to do so in a way that respects peoples’ human and civil rights,” she said. “While I am unaware of what families attended last night’s meeting, and although they may disagree with Sinn Fein’s political stance, I would like to state that my door is open to them.”


Meanwhile, a community activist working in the troubled interface area of the city between Bishop Street and the Fountain has issued a challenge to the local PSNI to explain why the force raided his home and the home of his elderly mother-in-law for over seven hours last week.

Eugene McLoone’s home was raided last Tuesday. More than 30 items were taken from his home, including eight mobile phones, two laptops, a PC, DVD player and CCTV equipment.

Mr McLoone, who works to prevent sectarian violence, said the experience has left him “disgusted and angry” and his family have been left traumatised.

Mr McLoone said that during the seven hour raid on his home, the PSNI:

- refused to explain why the search was being carried out, referring him only to the warrant.

- searched his medication and questioned his medical history.

- seized his nine year-old daughter’s laptop, which she had received as a Christmas present.

- scanned through all their personal bank statements and financial records.

- made a map of his home and recorded where each of his children slept.

- seized computer equipment used by his teenage children, who are at university and require a computer for their studies.

- searched the contents of their freezer, leaving the food unfit for human consumption.

- seized CCTV equipment he installed following attacks on his home.

Mr McLoone said that PSNI had violated his civil rights, and those of his 84 year-old mother-in-law whose house was also searched.

He said; “I’m a community worker - my position within the community has been compromised. My faith, and my community’s faith, in the police force has been compromised. I am angry and I want answers. I want Chief Inspector Burrows to come here and explain to the people of this neighbourhood why this raid took place.

“I want him to explain to my nine year-old why he took her Christmas present away. The wee girl is left devastated. She is afraid to leave the house. She didn’t want to go to school in case the police came for her there.

“How do you explain such things to a nine year-old?”

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