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Waving an Irish tricolour at loyalist protesters from a passing car could have sparked major public disorder, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 07/08/2015

At the time loyalists were in the area staging ongoing demonstrations over an Orange Order parade being banned from passing through the neighbouring Ardoyne district.
At the time loyalists were in the area staging ongoing demonstrations over an Orange Order parade being banned from passing through the neighbouring Ardoyne district.

Waving an Irish tricolour at loyalist protestors and shouting "Up the 'RA" from a passing car could have sparked major public disorder, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors said police were forced to intervene as up to 150 people surged towards the vehicle at a north Belfast flashpoint last month.

Details emerged as bail was granted to a 38-year-old man accused of being behind the wheel of the Alfa Romeo and speeding off from pursuing officers.

Christopher Maxwell, of Centenary House in the city, faces charges of dangerous driving, having no insurance or licence, and carrying out a provocative act.

Banning him from going within a mile of the interface at Twaddell Avenue, Mr Justice Horner said: "This is (alleged) offending of the most ridiculous nature."

A PSNI helicopter was involved in the tracking the car before Maxwell and co-accused Finatan Jude Geraghty, from Ivy Hill in Lisburn, were arrested on July 14.

At the time loyalists were in the area staging ongoing demonstrations over an Orange Order parade being banned from passing through the neighbouring Ardoyne district.

Fiona O'Kane, prosecuting, claimed the car was driven towards them before Geraghty hung a large Irish tricolour out the passenger window.

"As the vehicle passed the crowd of approximately 150 loyalist protestors the front seat passenger shouted out 'Up the 'RA' in a loud and clear manner," she alleged.

"It invoked them to be agitated and surge into the road.

"Police were concerned this could have resulted in very inflamed and severe public disorder had they not intervened because there's been tension in the area for some time." 

Despite officers using lights and sirens in a bid to stop the car it took off at speed, the court heard.

According to Mrs O'Kane the Alfa Romeo over and undertook traffic in a series of erratic manoeuvres - at one stage almost causing a three-car collision.

Both men were detained after the vehicle ultimately stopped on the Hannahstown Road.

Maxwell told police he had purchased the car three weeks previously and denied either seeing the flag being hung out the window or hearing anything being shouted at the protestors, the court heard.

But Mr Justice Horner reflected: "I do have some difficulty with the suggestion he had no idea the co-accused had a tricolour in the car."

Defence counsel Kelly Doherty accepted a prima facie case has been established against her client.

Seeking bail so Maxwell can see his daughter, she said being deprived contact with the child was having a "devastating" impact on him.

The judge granted the application based on Geraghty having already been released from custody.

Maxwell was told to abide by a night-time curfew and report to police twice a week.

Mr Justice Horner also ordered: "He must not be within one mile of the Crumlin Road/Twaddell Avenue interface area. That's a complete prohibition."

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