Concerns over return to political policing
Concerns over return to political policing

The Police Ombudsman in the North has been asked to investigate a stop-and-search operation conducted by the PSNI in the grounds of a primary school, in full view of young schoolchildren.

The operation was one of a number carried out this week against republican political activists across the North.

Ciaran Cunningham, aspokesman for political pressuregroup Republican Network for Unity,has accused the PSNI of purposely “stalking” him on his daily school run.

Mr Cunningham, who was stopped up to 60 times by the PSNI in the last year, was detained this week after being followed into the grounds of his daughter’s nursery.

Both the republican’s daughters, aged three and eight, attend the Irish language school in the Upper Springfield area of west Belfast.

He said that a number of staff members remonstrated with the PSNI asking why the search couldn’t be conducted away from school property. It is understood that the school principal has also asked Sinn Fein to raise the matter with police on the school’s behalf.

Details of the complaint have also been lodged with the Belfast Education and Library Board.

Mr Cunningham has contacted his lawyer in relation to the incident and said he will also be reporting the matter to the Children’s Commissioner.

“I believe that republicans are purposely being targeted on the school run in order to cause maximum distress to their families,” he said.

“I could have been stopped andsearched at any time or place. The fact they waited until I was in the grounds of my young daughter’s school in full view of parents and pupils speaks for itself.”

Local councillor Steven Corr said Sinn Fein was to meet the PSNI to raise concerns about the incident.

“Schools are places of learning and should be at all times neutral, young child ren should not be exposed to this type of situation,-he said.

“This is not acceptable civic policing and this community deserves better.”

In a related development, members of a campaigngroup that act on behalf of protesting republican prisoners were targeted in a series of arrests and raids by the PSNI at the weekend.

The four were arrested in Toome, County Antrim and Carrickmore, Omagh, and Pomeroy in County Tyrone at the weekend and are being held at the interrogation centre in Antrim.

The ‘Family and Friends group’ who act for republican prisoners in Maghaberry, said yesterday that the family members of prisoners and their supporters were among those arrested.

A spokeswoman for the group said during the searches material relating to the ongoing protest in Maghaberry including posters, placards and letters were seized. Cars belonging to the families were also towed away during the raids.

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© 2012 Irish Republican News