Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's John Dallat speaks on abuse he received after Twitter post about 'car kicked and thumped by mob' during loyalist parade

John Dallat: 'I will not allow intimidation of any sort to stop me or like-minded people seeking and achieving a better future for all our people'

By Claire Williamson

An SDLP MLA has said he has "never experienced anything" like the abuse he has received after he took to Twitter claiming he was threatened and had his car attacked by a mob in Co Londonderry.

John Dallat said his car was attacked by a group of around a dozen people for around 20 minutes after he went to collect a takeaway in his hometown of Kilrea on Friday June 16.

The 70-year-old called the police, who responded quickly to the incident – which took place around 8.30am - before the crowd then dispersed.

The East Londonderry MLA said a loyalist parade was taking place in the area at the time.

Since his Twitter post - contradictory reports appeared which said that the incident did not happen as Mr Dallat described.

In a statement on Wednesday he said: "I wish to make it public that the police have investigated this incident and in an update have confirmed that the incident did take place. I have reason to believe those involved will be identified and interviewed.

"Those who branded me a liar and worse should now reflect on the damage they have attempted to do to my reputation and integrity as a public representative who serves all constituents in our community irrespective of who they are and has done so for over 40 years."

He added: "In all those years I have never experienced anything like the abuse I have been subjected to in the past two weeks for doing nothing more than thanking the PSNI for responding to my 999 call to get me out of a very dangerous situation."

In a statement the PSNI said: "Police are investigating this incident and as enquiries are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

He is set to make a report to the Parades Commission and claimed he was not the only one impacted by the parade.

He said: "Clearly I must reflect on what has happened to me when I make my report, as I am obliged to do, to the Parades Commission and other bodies. In doing so I must be aware that I was not alone in being seriously impacted by this Loyalist parade.

"I must take into account the horrifying experience of a mother and father forced to make a 20-mile detour due to this parade to take their blood covered child to the Accident and Emergency department of the Causeway Hospital, after their child was bitten on the face by a large dog and not knowing if their child would be scarred for life.

"And I must also take into account the behaviour of certain individuals who were the primary source of abuse on social media, boasted on radio that the above incident didn’t take place and claimed to have instructed the police to prevent me leaving."

Mr Dallat said he will not allow "intimidation of any sort" deter him.

He said: "The 80% per cent of the people of Kilrea who are not followers of these parades have been very tolerant and I hope will continue to be so for parades that are prepared to show respect.

"But what happened on that Friday night was an extreme example of intolerance and an excuse for Loyalist paramilitary bands to demonstrate that nothing has changed from their perspective in Northern Ireland. And that behaviour is unacceptable and cannot be ignored.

He added: "I have over many years strived to achieve peace, progress and harmony in our community. I will not allow intimidation of any sort to stop me or like-minded people seeking and achieving a better future for all our people."

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