Castlederg Republican parade: DUP accuse police of 'wilful blindness' as court case is dismissed against organiser
Unionists said the Tyrone Volunteers march glorified terrorism
A man accused of breaching a Parades Commission restriction at a controversial IRA commemoration in Castlederg has walked free from court after his case was dismissed.
In August 2013 hundreds of Republicans took part in the 'Tyrone Volunteers' parade in the town to commemorate Republicans who died during the Troubles, including two IRA men killed by their own bomb.
Hundreds of Unionists, including victims of IRA violence, staged a counter-demonstration against what they called a "glorification of terrorism".
Afterwards, one of the organisers Brendan Devlin (42), from Castlederg, was charged with breaching a condition that no "paramilitary-style clothing" would be worn during the parade.
He contested the charge and after hearing evidence a judge at Strabane Magistrates' Court has dismissed the case against him.
According to the Strabane Chronicle, a PSNI officer told the court he saw nothing during the parade that gave him cause for concern.
The DUP's Diane Dodds has expressed anger at the outcome, accusing the PSNI of turning a blind eye.
"The lack of any case presented by the PSNI stands in stark contrast to prosecutions of people from the Unionist community."
She said the court development "only serves to heap further pain and trauma on the relatives of innocent victims of IRA atrocities in the area".
"For a PSNI Inspector to say that he saw nothing during the event that gave him cause for concern is particularly disturbing.
"The Parades Commission determination clearly prohibits: 'Any paramilitary clothing, the display of flags, bannerettes and symbols relating to proscribed organisations and depictions of firearms or uniforms which could reasonably be perceived as being the uniform of a proscribed organisation.'
"If the PSNI saw nothing during the event which gave cause for concern that can only be because they deliberately were not looking. On clear and public display was a banner depicting two masked gunmen, a banner depicting two firearms and drum-skins bearing the images of masked persons in paramilitary clothing were used.
"It is somewhat odd that clear breaches of the determination cause the PSNI no concern during a Republican terrorist commemoration but they are enforced with some enthusiasm during any parade within the Unionist community. The only way the police could not have seen anything which caused concern is through wilful blindness."
She added:"Ahead of this commemoration my party met with the police and urged them to have a fulsome evidence gathering team. It is quite clear that did not happen, but even the publicly available footage appears to have been passed over by the PSNI.
"This commemoration was a calculated insult by Republicans to the victims of terrorism in the area. That now has been compounded by this court case. There are clear inadequacies of the current legislation governing the glorification of terrorism and these must be addressed. However, no legislation could be effective if no effort is made to gather any evidence or present any case."
A PSNI spokesman said: "This case has been through the legal system and the court has ruled. We have nothing further to add at this time."
Brendan Devlin said he was a victim of “political persecution”. He said the matter should never have gone to court where he contested the matter.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday, he said: "I feel my stance was vindicated. Initially a decision was taken not to prosecute me and then after lobbying by Unionists the Public Prosecution Service reversed that and decided to prosecute me. It was a weak case and there were no grounds for a case because I felt I complied with the Parades Commission determination and that was borne out by the court."
Mr Devlin said he and other organisers had met with police before the parade and he felt they had allayed concerns expressed by police.
Castlederg Sinn Fein councillor Ruairi McHugh told the Belfast Telegraph: "I think the position adopted by the organisers of the parade, where they had adhered at all times to the Parades Commission determination, was vindicated in both the police evidence and the defence evidence in court.
"At no time was any parade determination breached . Rather than trying to get Republicans prosecuted the DUP would be better sitting down with elected representatives over parading issues in Castlederg where there has only been one Republican parade in 20 years but 300 Unionist parades in a town which the last census said was 64 per cent nationalist."
Mr McHugh said nobody else has been prosecuted in connection with the Castlederg parade.
Belfast Telegraph Digital