Belfast Telegraph

Belfast International Airport addresses 'inaccurate' fight claims as police probe link to funeral

By Jonathan Bell

Police are investigating a possible link between a Traveller funeral in Co Londonderry and the fight at Belfast International Airport over the weekend.

Airport bosses, meanwhile, hit out at the "inaccurate and misleading" commentary around the incident in the departures lounge on Saturday night.

Two loaded shotguns, ammunition, knives, blades and a liquid believed to be acid were all seized by police from the cemetery at St Mary's Church in Park on Saturday morning.

The discovery was part of a pre-planned police search prior to the arrival of around 200 members of the Travelling community.

A subsequent brawl was prevented from becoming a "bloodbath" by the heavy police presence in the area, one Sinn Fein councillor said.

Police are investigating a link between that incident and the fight at the international airport.

Children were left in tears as men hurled metal objects at each other during an altercation between two groups of passengers. Footage of the incident has been viewed thousands of times on social media.

One eye witness said the fight escalated between two men after a drink was poured over one of the men in the bar.

She said the incident felt like it went on for much longer than the airport's claim of seven minutes and she was shocked to see some of those involved later board their flights.

The airport will not tolerate behaviour such as this and takes such incidents very seriously

The airport said four individuals were prevented from flying and the rest of the two groups allowed to carry on their journey as there was not alcohol involved and no others involved in the altercation could be identified. No one was injured in the incident.

It also issued a timeline of events "for the sake of clarity and accuracy".

  • 18:01 – Disturbance commenced
  • 18:02 – Airport control alerted
  • 18:03 – Airport police tasked to disturbance
  • 18:06 – Airport police in attendance
  • 18:07 – End of disturbance

"The incident, in its entirety, lasted seven minutes," said an airport spokeswoman.

"There is an ongoing police investigation into what happened and we would appeal to anyone who captured photographic or video evidence to send to duty.sergeant@bfs.aero.

"The airport will not tolerate behaviour such as this and takes such incidents very seriously. It acknowledges the concern and upset felt by passengers who witnessed the altercation. 

"No-one was injured and four individuals did not travel.  There was insufficient grounds to prevent the remainder of the group from travelling and alcohol was not an issue."

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Another of the shocking images seen by tens of thousands on the internet

Speaking on BBC's Stephen Nolan show former RUC Special Branch chief Jim Gamble raised concerns about security at the airport.

He said there needed to be an independent investigation into the incident saying passengers needed to be reassured of their safety when travelling.

Pointing to the recent problems at the airport's security checks and his experience regularly travelling through the terminal, he said security - in his opinion - was being run on a "shoe-string".

The airport, however stressed passengers checks and the security operation of the entire airport were two separate areas.

"It is disappointing that an ex-senior police officer made ill-informed comments on the management and policing of the airport," an airport spokeswoman added.

"Senior management have reached out to the individual involved him to appraise him of the facts.”

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fight

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