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Ormeau Road parade: Unionist councillors meet top cops

By Rebecca Black

Published 02/04/2016

Quizzed: Supt Darrin Jones
Quizzed: Supt Darrin Jones

Unionist politicians have held meetings with the PSNI in south Belfast to voice concerns about the policing of a parade on Easter Tuesday.

CS spray was deployed by a police officer who had been escorting a Junior Orange Order parade along the Ormeau Road.

The PSNI said the officer was defending a colleague who had been attacked, and that both officers suffered minor injuries in the incident. Unionists have questioned the use of CS spray in an area where children were present.

They also queried why such force was used, when masked dissidents on parade in Lurgan were not confronted.

The Police Ombudsman is investigating what happened in south Belfast.

Chief Inspector Robert Murdie and Superintendent Darrin Jones met a delegation of councillors from the DUP, UUP, PUP, and met separately with independent unionist Ruth Patterson.

In a joint statement, DUP councillor Christopher Stalford and UUP councillors Jeffrey Dudgeon and Graham Craig said they believed "serious questions must be answered".

"We highlighted the concerns expressed to us by our constituents about the contrasting approaches taken in recent public order situations," they said. "We made clear to the representatives of the PSNI that proactive efforts will need to be made to restore confidence in policing to the highest levels: something that we all would like to see.

"The PSNI representatives acknowledged the need to focus efforts in restoring confidence."

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They also urged any witnesses to the incident to speak to the Police Ombudsman.

Ms Patterson described her meeting with the senior PSNI officers as "robust and frank".

"Whilst there are vastly different narratives around the incident in south Belfast on Tuesday night, both ourselves and the PSNI agreed that the Police Ombudsman was the appropriate body to undertake investigations into the matter," she said.

"There were concerns raised around whether the policing response was proportionate to the circumstances. I believe it wasn't."

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