Belfast Telegraph

Police criticised after violence

Police have been accused of provoking violence which ended with the arrests of 19 people in a seaside town on the north Antrim coast.

The riot squad was called in after officers were attacked with bottles and other missiles by crowds in the centre of Ballycastle, just hours before the start of the famous Auld Lammas Fair. Two officers were injured.

The street disturbances, which began after the pubs closed, lasted an hour.

Tens of thousands of people later packed the town for the event which claims to be Ireland's oldest festival. But the police tactics used to quell the trouble in the early hours were heavily criticised.

Padraig McShane, an independent member of Moyle District Council, who watched the police in action claimed the officers over-reacted and goaded some of the young people. He said the atmosphere in the town had been good until the riot squad arrived.

Mr McShane said: "This was heavy handed policing. They were very aggressive and the batons were out before the arrests. It's very easy for the police to look at young people on the wrong side and give them a hard time. But that's what happened and the violence was not a reflection of the people of Ballycastle."

Police said they took decisive action because the people in the town, the police and visitors had no time for such behaviour. Officers wearing public order clothing had to call for assistance, but once the risk was dealt with, ordinary policing resumed.

A statement added: "Ballycastle has an extremely low crime rate and it is the police intention that this will not change because of persons intent on causing trouble."

Meanwhile a Democratic Unionist Party member of Moyle council, George Hartin, said the trouble was deliberately started to draw the police into a confrontation.

He said: "It's always the same. Everytime a row starts, the PSNI gets involved. The trouble was only an excuse to attack the police. But what sort of image is that for strangers, and visitors, to Ballycastle who are here for the fair? It's very, very sad."


From Belfast Telegraph