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Ex-Policing Board chief slams INLA display and unionist response to it

By Liam Clarke

Published 24/07/2015

Anger: Sam Pollock
Anger: Sam Pollock

The former chief executive of the Policing Board has hit out at hardline republicans for their "obnoxious" paramilitary displays after the death of the mother of a hunger striker.

But Sam Pollock also called on unionists to stop their attempts at "sectarian manipulation" of the PSNI - and let the police decide how to handle public order.

Mr Pollock has worked in the justice sector for more than 40 years and previously worked for the Police Ombudsman's office.

He said the DUP should stop calling for republican funerals to be broken up and republicans should let the disputed Orange march past Ardoyne go ahead.

Active in the Orange Order for 18 years before dropping out in 1991, Mr Pollock comes from a strong unionist background and his father was a member of the Ulster Unionist Council.

"What strikes me as a member of the public and as someone who has been involved in justice for four decades is the total disrespect for the dead in this society," he said.

"It is pretty tribal, in fact I don't believe that primitive tribes would do what we do, whether it is ambushing funerals, killing soldiers after funerals or using Peggy O'Hara's memory to create another antagonism.

"This is Northern Ireland at its worst. It is tit for tat and both sides are involved," he added.

He argued that republicans, the INLA in this case, were responsible for politicising the recent funeral of Mrs O'Hara, the mother of 1981 hunger striker Patsy.

A volley of shots were fired over her coffin a few days before the funeral, and at the event more than 40 masked people marched in the cortege.

"In the first place, I am critical of the republicans for using the funeral to make statements or to terrorise a community.

"They were using that funeral for a purpose for which they shouldn't be using a funeral. That is obnoxious," he said.

However, he disagreed strongly with the DUP who complained that the police sat watching from a Land Rover instead of intervening and that they had no helicopter cover for surveillance purposes.

Police said they had gathered intelligence and were appropriately resourced. They have searched a number of premises since but there have been no charges.

Mr Pollock said: "The republicans do that and the police are caught in the middle with the unionists demanding action."

He defended the decision of the police not to intervene.

"The police cannot be seen to be doing the will of one political community, as they were for decades.

"Their courage and their sense of duty was manipulated by one political side - unionism.

"The fact that they are getting away from that and trying to do a professional policing job in Northern Ireland regardless of sectarian manipulation is admirable."

He said attempts to politicise policing often sprung from attitudes within the Policing Board.

"Working on the board I saw the very worst side of politicians trying to control the police. The discussions in board meetings of PSNI resources, tactics, strategy or priorities were all brought into a political domain. The place for that political discussion is in the Assembly or Westminster," he argued.

He believes that the board must now be radically restructured.

Belfast Telegraph

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