Ombudsman to investigate UDA’s eleventh night bonfire

SDLP Councillor for North Belfast Pat Convery said he intends to write to the Police Ombudsman about the policing implications of a UDA-staged bonfire on Westland Road on the Eleventh Night.

The free hand the UDA exercised while they showcased their might right under the noses of the PSNI was totally unacceptable the SDLP councillor said.

Earlier this week a Westland resident contacted the North Belfast News to say that in the run up to July 12 the bonfire at Westland Road became a ‘Simply the Best’ event.

“With a marquee and flat bed lorries acting as stages, tannoy (loud speaker) systems in place, wood chip on the ground, Union Jacks, UDA and UFF flags erected in broad daylight, the scene was set.

“On Saturday July 10, during the daylight hours, loud music was played out through the tannoy.

“In between the music UDA slogans were played out.

“That night a party was held which continued until 3am the next morning.

“On Sunday morning, around 7am three drunken men turned on the PA system and started singing sectarian songs.

“They howled the Sash, yelled ‘F*ck Bobby Sands’ and blared sectarian language.”

That day the residents had a street party and the area was sealed off.

On Sunday the Eleventh night, once darkness fell armed and masked paramilitaries took to the stage and fired a volley of shots.

A masked UDA man said in a statement that it would take the war to republicans if they attacked loyalists.

The PSNI said that it was informed that a street party was taking place that afternoon and that it had closed the street off due to a high number of people in the area.

“Officers in North Belfast reported hearing shots fired from the direction of the Westland area.

“They had no prior knowledge of the incident.

“After locating the scene the area was monitored as part of a mobile policing operation that was in place in the North Belfast area.

“This is a community issue which should be addressed using a multi-agency approach.”
But Cllr Pat Convery, who is also the Deputy Chairman of the NB District Policing Partnership, accused the PSNI of letting the UDA have a free run of the area.

“The area was effectively handed over to the UDA.

“Then the PSNI added insult to injury by suggesting that what happened was ‘a community issue which should be addressed using a multi-agency approach’.

“The PSNI is losing the run of itself by resorting to this sort of gobbledygook. This is not a community issue, it is a criminal matter that can be dealt with by anti-terrorist legislation.

“The SDLP absolutely rejects this sort of cop-out, whether it be on paramilitary flags or other public displays by terrorist organisations.

“The PSNI must act to prevent such incidents and must go in immediately and stop them if they occur.

“There must be no pacts with paramilitaries.

“If trying to dump the problem of paramilitarism back on to the very communities they rob and oppress is police policy, it has got to stop.”

Sinn Féin Councillor for North Belfast, Danny Lavery, has also slammed the PSNI’s comments as sickening.

“The statement given by the PSNI regarding the UDA show of strength in Westland is both farcical and sickening.

“The stage that the gunmen fired from was erected in broad daylight and bedecked with illegal UDA banners and flags.

“The statement from the PSNI that these activities are a ‘community issue which needed addressed using a multi-agency approach’‚ is completely unacceptable.

“Are the guns that were fired that night a community issue or the fact that the same Loyalist guns have killed countless people a community issue?

“I am confident that the families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the UDA do not share the same view.

“This is a clear example of the double standards and duplicity that highlights starkly the methods that the PSNI use to deal with loyalist paramilitaries and nationalist residents.

“Those nationalist residents who were protesting peacefully on the Crumlin Road on the Twelfth were hemmed in by a massive militaristic operation and then beaten into Ardoyne while loyalist gunmen still have a free hand to do what they like when they wish.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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