Dad shops Ardoyne riot accused son
A West Belfast social worker made his son hand himself into the police after seeing his photograph among youths accused of rioting over the Twelfth, a court was told.
John McKeating, a social worker of 30 years, told Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday he was horrfied when he opened the newspaper at the weekend to see a picture of his teenage son Christopher among 13 people wanted in connection with the disturbances in Ardoyne.
Mr McKeating told the hearing his family was upset the 19-year-old was involved in the incident and apologised unreservedly for his behaviour.
He said that after he saw the image, he confronted Christopher.
The teenager, from Hawthorn Glen, west Belfast, denied any involvement.
He then urged him to go to the police to “argue his case”.
“I talked to him at the time, he was very nervous,” he said. “He did lie to me in the beginning and said he was not involved. In the end he did agree to come down with me to the station. He was very negative.
“I can only apologise on my family’s behalf,” he added.
For three days parts of north Belfast lay under siege as dozens of rioters held the area hostage.
More than 80 police officers were injured during the clashes, described as some of the worst in recent years.
Riot police were forced to drag protesters off the road one by one in order to facilitate the annual feeder parade past the Ardoyne and more than 40 plastic baton rounds were fired at rioters.
A police officer, who said he could connect the accused to the charge of riotous assembly, told the court the defendant travelled to the area with others because they heard there was going to be a protest.
He said he had tried to hide his identity with a scarf but handed himself in voluntarily after his father saw his picture in the paper.
He said that during interview the teenager denied any involvement until he was shown a DVD which allegedly showed him throwing stones.
Police were opposing bail because further contentious parades are still to take place, he added.
As his mother wept, the teenager’s solicitor told the court he came from a respectable family who were shocked by what had happened. He argued his client was not there “to help organise the riot” but got caught up “when he was on his way home from another part of north Belfast”.
“Curiosity got the better of him,” he added.
Mr McKeating said he could “guarantee” his son would not be allowed near Ardoyne if granted bail. “I guarantee he would not be allowed out of the house at all,” he said.
He added that he would have no hesitation in “shopping” his son to police if he were to break his bail.
“The first thing I would do would be to phone the police,” he said. “But he will not go against me.”
Before handing down her decision Judge Bagnall said if it had not been for Mr McKeating’s testimony in relation to his son, she would not have “entertained” the idea of bail.
Bail was granted under strict conditions including a ban on going near Ardoyne shopfronts and from entering the city of Londonderry. She also imposed a curfew and banned the defendant from being within 500 metres of any loyal order parades.
McKeating is expected in court again in September.