Belfast Telegraph

MLA 'dismayed' no charges brought against Tyrone GAA team despite PSNI indicating offence

An image from footage taken on the Tyrone GAA team bus
An image from footage taken on the Tyrone GAA team bus

By Eimear McGovern

An MLA has said there is dismay no charges have been brought against a Tyrone GAA team despite the involvement in an incident which the PSNI described as offensive.

The UUP's Rosemary Barton said the PSNI told her their legal advice recognised the actions of those filmed singing rebel songs on a bus at Aughnacloy as offensive - despite saying in July no offences were detected.

It's after a video emerged of a Tyrone GAA team bus appeared to show someone shouting a sectarian remark as a band parade passed their coach in the border village of Aughnacloy.

Some players were also captured signing songs, including Come Out Ye Black And Tans, after a victory over Cavan at Clones in Co Monaghan.

During the footage an individual can be heard making reference to a "pile of f****** huns" as accordion band members - mainly teenage girls - pass the stopped bus.

"It is concerning that even though the police at the time treated this matter as a hate incident, they now say their legal advice recognise the actions of those on the bus at Aughnacloy as being offensive, but no further action was taken against anyone on the bus in relation to this offensive hate incident," said Mrs Barton.

"The incident of Northern Ireland football supporters singing in a Belfast bar was dealt with differently," she said.

"PSNI ACC Mark Hamilton notes that the matter of the perception of two-tier policing has been raised on several occasions recently, and is something that must be dealt with in a pro-active manner by the PSNI, otherwise more and more of the public will see it as not just a perception but a reality," she said.

Mrs Barton said the PSNI revealed to her that their legal advice had said the incident was offensive in a letter.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said in a statement: "We have corresponded with Mrs Barton and noted her concerns.

"Each and every incident we deal with is treated on its own merits and in this case, as always, we will take learning from both incidents to ensure a continued consistent approach for the future.

"The incident in Aughnacloy was investigated as a hate incident; evidence identifying those involved was captured by police and legal advice was sought as to whether any of the actions of those on the bus constituted a criminal offence under Article 9 of the Public Order (NI) Order 1987.  No offences relating to the incident were identified, although one individual was dealt with by way of a penalty notice for disorder for a separate public order offence in Aughnacloy.

"In respect of the Belfast incident, this again was treated as a hate incident.  Evidence identifying those involved was captured, with three males being further interviewed by police.  A file was prepared and passed to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for a prosecutorial decision.  The PPS directed no prosecution. 

"I am confident that in both instances, officers made entirely impartial policing decisions, albeit relying on legal advice at different points in their enquiries."

The parade was organised by Lisgenny Flute Band on Saturday, July 6. It is an annual event and is held after 8.30pm in order to prevent disruption to parishioners in the area attending Mass.

In July, the PSNI said a complaint had been received about the video and that officers were investigating to determine whether an offence had taken place.

In a statement to The Irish News, Superintendent Mike Baird confirmed that detectives are not pursuing anyone.

"Following enquiries, no offences have been detected in relation to a video that was circulated online," he said.

However, someone on the bus has accepted a fine over behaviour that is not related to the video.

"A male on the bus was spoken to and has been issued with a penalty notice for disorder in relation to a public order offence," Mr Baird said.

Tyrone GAA manager, Mickey Harte, issued a statement after the incident apologising to "anyone who has been offended by the unacceptable behaviour of some of the panel on Saturday evening".

He said later his response was "adequate and well received" by "those that needed to hear it".

At the time DUP leader Arlene Foster labelled the video "deeply sectarian and offensive" and called for the GAA leadership to take "meaningful action" against those responsible.

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