Belfast Telegraph

Antrim Councillor McShane convicted over Ballycastle Twelfth protest

By Nevin Farrell

A Co Antrim councillor has been convicted of organising and taking part in an unnotified protest at a Twelfth of July parade in Ballycastle.

Padraig McShane, an Independent member of Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, was before Ballymena Magistrates Court on Tuesday, May 16.

He was also found guilty of assault on police and disorderly behaviour relating to an Orange Order march in Ballycastle on July 12, 2016.

The 45-year-old from Beechwood Avenue, Ballycastle, who left Sinn Fein to become an Independent, had denied the charges and had previously contested the case but was found guilty by District Judge Peter King.

Sentencing has been adjourned until next month and a pre-sentence report will be prepared on the councillor.

Judge King said the background to the case was "depressingly familiar" regarding parading and protests.

During a July 12 parade in Ballycastle last year, there was an incident when Dervock Young Defenders band were in close proximity to Councillor McShane.

The judge said the police prevented much greater disorder occurring. He also remarked that, if individuals had acted with a degree of restraint, the day would have passed off peacefully.

He noted that, during the three days of evidence in the case, he'd also heard of incidents in the Altananam Park area and at the Diamond in Ballycastle.

Summarising the case, Judge Kindg said that, at around 12.50pm on July 12, during the first leg of the parade, McShane directed a group of up to 15 males who formed up at Altananam Park. This became an unnotified protest when they held placards including some which said "Treat our community with respect".

The court heard that gestures were made towards band and a police officer was racially abused by an individual.

Judge King said McShane shouted towards a band and, when asked to move back, he swore at police. He was agitated and was warned about his behaviour.

The judge said the group was "directed" by McShane and were clearly acting in concert with the councillor who was "operating a leadership role".

Judge King stated that, later, as the parade was returning through Ballycastle around 5.15pm, regrettably, the parade paused for an unknown reason and a "critical mass" of members of the Dervock Young Defenders band had been drinking alcohol.

He said drummers were wearing Union Flag face masks and a confrontation occurred between McShane and the band.

The judge said there had been a "history" and that the councillor had claimed he was spat at. There was also a claim a "kiss" was blown in McShane's direction and the councillor reacted.

The judge said McShane was shouting and swearing at the band. In evidence, the councillor had accepted he was "giving as good as he got".

Judge King also observed that, as police tried to calm the situation, McShane "unjustifiably" transferred his aggression to the PSNI, showing a constable in the chest and then ending up on the ground. Two sets of handcuffs needed to restrain him and he kicked out.

A co-accused, Donal James Martin (46), of Ramoan Court, Ballycastle, was convicted of disorderly behaviour and taking part in an unnotified protest.

He had given police "the middle finger". Judge King gave him an absolute discharge on the disorderly charge but fined him £200 for taking part in the unnotified protest.

Another co-accused, Joseph John Donaghy (50), of Altananam Park, Ballycastle, was fined £200 for taking part in an unnotified protest.

A parade participant, William Thomas Smyth (52), of Queens Court, Coleraine, was fined £150 for disorderly behaviour at Altnananam Park, for making what the judge described as a "crude" gesture.

Smyth's defence solicitor Brendan McLernon, said his client had a long involvement with a band and had drink taken on the day but immediately regretted the incident.

'The Twelfth' is held in Ballycastle, which has a Catholic majority, every five years.

After July 12 last year, video footage appeared showing blood coming from an apparent head wound as McShane was led away in handcuffs by police.

After Tuesday's court case, McShane said he did not wish to comment.

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