PSNI could walk behind Martin Galvin at St Patrick's Day parade in New York
PSNI officers could be marching behind a hardline republican critic of the peace process at the St Patrick's Day parade in New York.
Former Noraid publicity director and New York lawyer Martin Galvin has been appointed as an aide to parade grand marshal Cardinal Timothy Dolan for the March 17 event.
The PSNI controversially took part in this year's parade, at which the official banner was 'England Out Of Ireland' - and the force hasn't ruled out joining the 2015 event if invited.
"No decision has yet been taken in relation to St Patrick's Day 2015," a police spokeswoman said last night.
Unionist politicians are demanding that the Chief Constable acts immediately to prevent his officers joining the parade and marching behind Galvin, who was once on the run from police in Northern Ireland.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians in the Bronx nominated him as one of 13 aides for the event, which is the largest St Patrick's Day parade in the world. Around 200,000 marchers walk up Fifth Avenue in front of a million-strong crowd.
The prestigious position will see Galvin, who strongly opposes the Belfast Agreement, march at the head of the demonstration wearing a special sash and ceremonial suit.
The New York lawyer was once banned from entering the UK. In 1984, he defied the authorities, appearing at a rally in west Belfast. In an attempt to arrest him, the RUC stormed the crowd and shot dead Sean Downes with a plastic bullet.
In recent times Galvin has maintained his hardline stance, criticising Sinn Fein for "abandoning republicanism".
TUV leader Jim Allister said he was contacting Chief Constable George Hamilton urgently to ensure "no police officers are engaged in the unseemly activity of parading behind Martin Galvin".
Mr Allister said: "It was shameful enough that the PSNI participated in this year's event, but to march behind a man who is so extreme that he thinks Sinn Fein and the IRA sold out would be unforgiveable."
Mr Galvin said it was a matter for the St Patrick's Day parade committee as to whether or not the PSNI was invited. But he said he would find it "bizarre" if the police participated in a demonstration in which he played a prominent position.
Martin Galvin was Sinn Fein's best known Irish-American supporter during the Troubles. Banned from entering the UK, he defied the authorities by appearing at an anti-internment rally in west Belfast in 1984. In an attempt to arrest him, the RUC stormed the crowd and shot dead Sean Downes with a plastic bullet. Galvin parted ways with Sinn Fein in the 1990s.