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PSNI apology: We failed to protect Orangemen from republican attack during Twelfth of July parade

Ballymacarrett No 6 district lodge said they were pelted with stones, paint bombs and bottles of urine as they walked past Short Strand in 2013

By David Young and Claire Cromie

Published 26/06/2015

Ballymacarrett LOL No 6 passes St Matthew’s Church on the Lower Newtownards Road
Ballymacarrett LOL No 6 passes St Matthew’s Church on the Lower Newtownards Road

The Chief Constable has apologised to Orangemen after a complaints watchdog found police failed to protect them from a republican attack as they returned from Twelfth commemorations.

Members of Ballymacarrett No 6 district lodge reported the episode to the Police Ombudsman, alleging they were pelted with stones, paint bombs and bottles of urine as they walked past the nationalist Short Strand area in east Belfast on July 12, 2013.

The Police Ombudsman has today said in a report that the complaint is "substantiated in its entirety".

A young bandswoman suffered a fractured cheek bone and an Orangewoman required 10 stitches to a leg wound.

There was no police presence in Short Strand -  the PSNI “were satisfied that the Short Strand community had demonstrated that self community policing could be achieved”.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said while the Ombudsman's office had cleared all officers of wrongdoing, it had found the police failed to plan sufficiently for violence and had not deployed sufficient numbers of officers.

"It's our job to keep people safe, we didn't do it on that occasion and for that I am sorry," Mr Hamilton told the Policing Board.

Ballymacarrett District LOL No 6 said in a statement today: "While we welcome the apology, it is regrettable that the PSNI have not charged one person out of over 200 involved in the attack, nor has any officer faced disciplinary action for their mistakes."

It said the decision to entrust "self community policing" in Short Strand was "disturbing" - and slammed a "misleading" statement by PSNI at the time that said officers had "moved in to protect St Matthew’s chapel".

"It was that same community who unleashed this well-planned vicious and sectarian attack on a lawful parade," said Ballymacarrett .

"We call on our elected representatives to ensure that the PSNI will not again abdicate their role as they did in 2013. We were victims not only of republican aggression, but also the fact that the police did not have police officers in the Short Strand and therefore could neither prevent nor protect the parade.

"Thankfully the truth has finally emerged and an unequivocal apology offered to the people attacked on the Newtownards Road that evening."

Residents of the Short Strand claimed their homes also came under attack from loyalists.

DUP Policing Board member Robin Newton had asked Mr Hamilton to comment on the Ombudsman's report at yesterday's monthly board meeting.

The Chief Constable said: "The Ombudsman's report concluded that there was no misconduct identified on the part of any individual officer, however, the Ombudsman did find that the police had failed to protect Orange Order members on their return parade.

"That was because of a number of shortcomings, mainly around planning for the event, with regard to police deployments into the Short Strand area, that was a shortcoming that the Ombudsman identified."

Mr Newton said the Ombudsman's findings were "disturbing".

"There were people injured. There was clothing and regalia damaged," he said.

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