Belfast Telegraph

DUP hit out at PSNI for 'over the top' response to flute band wearing Parachute Regiment symbols during Apprentice Boys parade

Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

The DUP have accused the PSNI of an "over the top" response to a flute band wearing Parachute Regiment insignia on their uniform during the annual Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry on Saturday.

Police officers surrounded the Clyde Valley Flute Band and escorted them throughout the parade route.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell claimed that the escort was due to the Larne band having "a small insignia of the Parachute Regiment on their uniform".

Mr Campbell said that an "over the top policing operation appeared to be put in place to encircle the band as they took part in the parade".

The East Londonderry MP claimed that the band was then stopped by police around seven miles outside Derry and were asked to supply their names and addresses.

"I understand this led to two hours of protracted discussions and only ended with the police accepting the names of several band representatives and the bus was then allowed to proceed on its way," the veteran unionist said.

Mr Campbell said that the DUP would be demanding answers following the incidents.

"Given that there did not appear to be a suggestion of an offence being committed it is incredulous that an operation like this took place on the week that police were perceived to have tamely walked away from a bonfire site in a republican area of north Belfast where there was obvious law breaking in evidence," he said.

"It is absolutely essential that the rationale for Policing operations is seen to be justifiable and even handed irrespective of the location, or of those being subjected to the police actions.“

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson accused the police of acting with "heavy handedness" towards members of the band.

DUP representatives including MP Gregory Campbell and MLAs Gary Middleton and Edwin Poots pose under a banner in Londonderry's Fountain Estate on Saturday.
DUP representatives including MP Gregory Campbell and MLAs Gary Middleton and Edwin Poots pose under a banner in Londonderry's Fountain Estate on Saturday.

“The actions of the PSNI in Londonderry towards the Clyde Valley Flute Band have caused a huge amount of anger and ill will towards the PSNI," he said.

"The heavy handedness of the police was completely unwarranted and unjustified and there are many questions that the police will have to answer.

"We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable and will put these questions to him directly.”

Former RUC officer and DUP Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt said he was "disgusted" at the PSNI's handling of the incident.

"This is clearly biased policing and double standards, I have always supported policing in a difficult policing environment," the former South Belfast MLA said.

"But given the way they handle republicans in parading, and their total failure in dealing with the New Lodge issues this week. They have now serious questions to answer.

Apprentice Boys march on the Derry Walls, Saturday 10th August 2019. Picture Trevor McBride
Apprentice Boys march on the Derry Walls, Saturday 10th August 2019. Picture Trevor McBride

"Don’t let me hear them complain about resources anytime soon, they can deploy 30 officers to surround a loyalist band, but stay clear of republican parades at a distance."

Following the parade police said that five people had been arrested on suspicion of public order offences.

Police also said that a report would be forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service in respect of the behaviour and symbols of one band in the parade.

"We'll work with the event organisers to examine the issues from today's parade," the PSNI said in a Tweet.

The symbol of the Parachute Regiment is controversial in Derry due to the actions of its soldiers on Bloody Sunday.

On January 30 1972 thirteen civilians were shot dead by the regiment, one died later in hospital.

Parachute Regiment symbols have been used across Northern Ireland to show support for Soldier F, charged with two of the murders on Bloody Sunday and the attempted murders of four others.

Banners in support of the ex paratrooper have been erected in loyalist areas across the province, with Soldier F set to appear at court in Derry next month.

Following the Apprentice Boys parade on Sunday the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall was attacked with petrol bombs.

Police deployed to the scene also came under attack in a night of disorder in the area.

The PSNI has been contacted in relation to this story.

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