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Claims of PSNI double standards as no fines yet for Belfast cenotaph 'guardians'

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The cenotaph protection demonstration held at Belfast City Hall on Saturday, June 13

The cenotaph protection demonstration held at Belfast City Hall on Saturday, June 13

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

The cenotaph protection demonstration held at Belfast City Hall on Saturday, June 13

More than a week on from protests at Belfast's cenotaph, police confirm that no fines have yet been issued to any who attended.

The revelation comes after the Police Ombudsman opened an investigation into how the PSNI enforced coronavirus public health regulations at large public gatherings.

The complaints were prompted after several hundred people gathered outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday, June 13 to take part in a "protect our statues" protest, in response to vandalism directed at public monuments during some Black Lives Matter events across the UK.

Despite the gathering being contrary to the coronavirus public health regulations, no fines were issued on the day.

Those who attended the Northern Ireland Cenotaph Protection Group demonstration included former Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen.

It is believed up to 70 fines were issued during previous Black Lives Matter protests in both Belfast and Londonderry.

In a statement yesterday, asked about the current status around any fines handed out at the cenotaph event, a spokesperson for the PSNI said: "While no fines have been issued at this time, the review of evidence from social gatherings in Belfast on Saturday (June 13) continues and the investigation is ongoing."

Describing the police response at the various public gatherings as "inconsistent", Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said: "Amnesty International has received complaints from members of the public who have been fined and threatened with prosecution as a result of participation in peaceful, socially distanced Black Lives Matter protests in Belfast and Derry-Londonderry.

"We have welcomed the announcement by the Police Ombudsman of an investigation into apparently inconsistent policing of large public gatherings in recent weeks. The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental human right and people must be able to do so peacefully and safely without being criminalised."

Meanwhile, a row has erupted between high profile Labour peer Lord Adonis and the former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson over the landmark statue of Oliver Cromwell outside Westminster.

The former Transport Secretary in Gordon Brown's government argued that Cromwell had been responsible for "genocide" during his conquest of Ireland and instead made the case for the statue to be taken down and preserved in a museum.

"Cromwell was a military dictator who ended up abolishing Parliament and committing genocide in Ireland. He has no place outside Parliament - unlike Churchill, who led the successful national and international resistance to Hitler and Nazi dictatorship," said Lord Adonis.

The suggestion however was dismissed by Mr Paterson and other Conservative MPs, who called the intervention "absurd".

"Cromwell is undoubtedly a significant figure in our history and in the history of parliamentary democracy," he said. "Equally undoubtedly, he committed grave sins. But the fact that he was imperfect in his own time - and still less perfect by the standards of today - is not a great revelation, and should not be a cause for anger and destruction.

"The current 'woke' doctrine is entirely destructive, however, and would leave us with no statues, no paintings and no memorials at all."

Belfast Telegraph