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Community group hits out after raid by terror police on headquarters

By Nevin Farrell

Published 11/04/2016

Leanne Abernethy and Derwyn Brewster with search warrant
Leanne Abernethy and Derwyn Brewster with search warrant

A leader of a community group has hit out after police officers raided a local facility in a north Antrim village in a search for terrorist weapons and explosives.

Anti-terror police were also looking for paramilitary paraphernalia when they searched the Community House in Bushmills.

The PSNI later issued a statement saying it had uncovered a quantity of suspected counterfeit cigarettes in the raid.

Derwyn Brewster, chairman of the Bushmills Residents and Environmental Forum, which is based in the Community House, said the raid yesterday morning in the Dundarave estate had damaged relationships between locals and police.

Mr Brewster told the Belfast Telegraph police arrived after 9.30am with a "search warrant under the Terrorism Act looking for guns and explosives and paramilitary regalia".

He claimed the premises were closed and the PSNI phoned treasurer Leanne Abernethy and told her she had 10 minutes to get down to the property or else "they were going to put the door in".

"First of all they went in with an explosives dog to search for explosives and then a full search team went in and lifted every floorboard and every carpet and searched the place," said Mr Brewster.

"There was quite a bit of damage done.

"The carpets were stuck down and I don't know if we can re-stick them.

"They never found any guns, explosives or paramilitary regalia.

"They took out a bag of cigarettes they found in the sitting room, which belonged to somebody.

"It wasn't very many."

Asked who owned the suspected counterfeit cigarettes, he said: "The Community House is used by a dozen different groups."

He claimed the police action had caused anger throughtout the estate.

"We are looking for answers," he said.

"The PSNI actually funds that Community House for different programmes and the PSNI regularly meets in it for meetings with community representatives, and we can't understand why this has happened."

Mr Brewster is a member of the Loyalist Communities Council, which was set up last year with the backing of the UDA and UVF in a bid to connect loyalism to civic society.

He claimed the community's relationship with the police was "not very good at the minute".

"The community is in shock, they are angry," he said.

"A full search on a Sunday under the Terrorism Act at the Community House doesn't make sense.

"Whoever gave the order to do this would need to go and get their head examined.

"There are church groups, youths groups, National Trust and even the PSNI had outreach in there when they closed Bushmills police station.

"There is all this talk of two-tier policing at the minute and I think it is just another attack on the unionist community.

"We don't understand, don't know why they would do this on a Community House.

"Surely people can just lift the phone and say: 'I believe such and such is in such and such a place?'"

"I don't know - it is police intelligence?

"It is away up the left, totally wrong."

Mr Brewster and Ms Abernethy posed for a photograph with a copy of the police warrant.

It showed that officers were there to look for "firearms, any paramilitary paraphernalia, offensive weapons".

PSNI Chief Inspector Mark McClarence added: "Police carried out a planned search at premises in the Dundarave area of Bushmills on Sunday.

"A quantity of suspected counterfeit cigarettes were seized.

"Enquiries are ongoing."

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