Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Frank exchanges as Orange Order meets with PSNI top brass

PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards Road in July
PSNI officers on the Lower Newtownards Road in July

The Orange Order launched a stinging attack on the PSNI over its handling of a July 12 parade on the same day it announced it will work with the police to improve fraught relations between officers and loyalists.

Orangemen said a return parade in east Belfast was attacked with bricks, bottles, golf balls and containers of urine for around half-an-hour as it passed St Matthew's Church on the Newtownards Road.

District master Raymond Spiers wrote to Chief Inspector Mark McEwan blasting the "lamentable failure" of the PSNI to protect participants and spectators.

He claimed that "insufficient police resources were deployed", adding that he and "many others are angry and frustrated by what was allowed to unfold on the lower Newtownards Road". The Orangeman also demanded an apology from the Chief Constable.

The Orange Order handed the letter into PSNI headquarters at Knock yesterday as its leadership met with Chief Constable Matt Baggott and other senior officers.

Orange grand master Edward Stevenson and Mr Nelson led a six-strong delegation to meet with Mr Baggott, Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie and two Assistant Chief Constables to discuss the lack of confidence Orangemen and loyalists have in the PSNI. Speaking after the meeting, grand secretary Mr Nelson announced that the Order will be working with the PSNI to address the loyalist perception that police do not treat them fairly.

Mr Nelson said there had been a very robust exchange of views lasting 90 minutes.

"I think police are very highly aware, perhaps even concerned, about the perceptions that are growing within certain parts of the Protestant community about how the province is being policed, particularly all the comments on social media, and how that feeds into people's conceptions and misconceptions and can cause volatile situations," he said.

"We have agreed to meet with them again in three months and agreed we will work with the PSNI to address that issue and other issues which we talked about."

Mr Nelson said the Orange Order will be working with police on "two or three things" in the next few months.

"We talked also about longer-term issues, what police can do to restore confidence among that part of the Protestant community," he said.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "There was a full and frank discussion about a range of issues which included the need for PSNI and the Orange Order to work collectively to address perceptions of policing."

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