Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Rasharkin residents could take legal action over parade

Police officers clash with nationalist protesters in Rasharkin on Friday night
Police officers clash with nationalist protesters in Rasharkin on Friday night

Residents of a Co Antrim village that saw a controvertial loyalist parade rerouted at the last minute because of a security alert are today expected to announce whether or not they are to pursue legal action against the PSNI.

The march through Rasharkin did not conclude until after midnight on Saturday morning because of the bomb scare at an Orange hall in the village.

Sinn Fein has claimed that the re-routing was illegal because it was not cleared by the Parades Commission.

Police said allowing the parade to go ahead on a different route gave officers more time to secure the area and minimise disruption, while unionists have said that the parade would not have been rerouted if the device had not been planted in the first place.

Most of Main Street in Rasharkin was cordoned off as the security alert got under way at around 7.30pm on Friday.

The device was discovered at around the same time that the parade, organised by Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band, was due to start.

A number of residents were also evacuated from their homes as Army technical officers arrived at the scene shortly after 9pm.

Chief Inspector Ryan Henderson said that rerouting was a “practical solution to a problem that was not of the making of the parade organisers or the residents group” and added that the safety of everyone in the immediate area was the first priority of the PSNI.

The parade got under way at 10.30pm with the bands marching along the original route in reverse. The evening went relatively peacefully, with protesters shouting at bandsmen as they passed, but no arrests were made.

The parade ended shortly before 12.30am on Saturday and the security operation was then scaled down. Scores of PSNI officers were drafted in for the controversial parade.

North Antrim MLA Daithi McKay said the Rasharkin Residents Association is to meet with solicitors today to discuss the incident.

“As I understand, the residents will be taking legal advice and will later announce whether they will proceed with legal action against the PSNI,” he said.

“The police rerouted the parade without the consent of the Parades Commission and that was illegal.

“This parade was essentially held over two days.”

The Assembly member said he agreed with comments from the DUP that had the hoax bomb not been planted, the disruption would never have taken place.

“That is a valid point,” he said.

“However, it was not the residents’ fault there was an alert, they did not plant anything and they were not to blame, but at the end of the day it was they who suffered. You could also say if the parade wasn’t there, there would have been no disruption at all.”

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