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PSNI Facilitating Intimidation in Portadown

30/11/09

Text sent around PortadownUnionist mob violence returned to the streets of Portadown at the weekend as a 200-strong gang attempted to stop nationalists from socialising in the town centre.

For weeks, text messages had been circulating in the County Armagh town urging unionists to “show republicans that we will not tolerate their behaviour or presence in our area”.

The threat materialised on Saturday night [November 28] when the bigots gathered outside a bar that is frequented by both catholics and protestants. True to form, the PSNI agreed to allow the lynch mob’s ‘protest’ to go ahead but apparently underestimated the numbers that would be involved.

Once assembled, the crowd began to attack the cars of nationalists who were inside the bar and, then, frustrated at not being able to reach the target of their anger – the bar’s clientele – they turned their fury on the PSNI. Three hours of violence ensued.

Portadown nationalists have expressed their concern at Saturday’s events, particularly given the history of unionist violence in the town, which included the kicking to death of catholic man Robert Hamill in full view of an RUC patrol in 1997.

Speaking on behalf of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition Breandán MacCionnaith expressed concern at the tactics of the PSNI: “It has been a well-known fact for some time that loyalists were planning to gather in Portadown last night with the sole intention of intimidating people from the Catholic and nationalist community who frequent a particular licensed premises in the town centre.

“Questions must, therefore, be asked of the PSNI as to why they permitted a large crowd of loyalists to subsequently congregate in the town centre last night. The PSNI in Portadown, like the RUC before them, have in the past turned a blind eye to loyalist intimidation and attacks in Portadown.

“By permitting this intimidatory mob to assemble in the first place, the PSNI ensured a clear message was sent out signaling that Portadown town centre is not a welcome or safe place at night for Catholics or nationalists. That is totally and completely objectionable and abhorrent and cannot be justified under any circumstances.

Police facilitating Orangemen“By permitting loyalists to congregate, the PSNI ensured that the loyalists achieved their aim.”

Mac Cionnaith continued: “Last night was not unlike previous unionist/loyalist campaigns in this town a decade ago which the police force also deliberately ignored and which were directed at ensuring no Catholic or nationalist person could feel safe going about their normal lives in Portadown.

“Many people are quite rightly today asking if anything has really changed since then?”

éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson said that the PSNI and unionist gangs are intent on making Portadown town centre a no-go area for nationalists.

“What happened in Portadown on Saturday night was an exercise in intimidation, facilitated by the PSNI,” he said.

“Matt Baggott must explain why his force facilitated the holding of a 'demonstration' which was clearly aimed at fomenting religious hatred.

“Despite the menacing nature of text messages that had been circulating among unionists in the town for weeks, the PSNI actually agreed to allow the mob to gather outside the bar in question. One can only imagine the fear those in the bar must have felt when they witnessed a gang of 200 sectarian thugs gathering outside.

“This was purely an attempt by unionist bigots to prevent nationalists from socialising in their own town centre.

Leeson continued: “There is a long history of the intimidation and assault of nationalists who dare to socialise in Portadown town centre. Over the years, many have been murdered by pro-British death-squads: Jack McCabe, Felix Hughes, Eamon McMahon, Joey Weir, Thomas Trainor, Dennis Kelly, Martin McConville, Robert Hamill and Adrian Lamph are all catholics who have died horrific deaths at the hands of unionist gangs within and adjacent to the area of the main commercial centre in Portadown.

“Many other catholics have been assaulted and wounded in the same commercial area while going about their everyday business.

Robert Hamill“Traditionally, these acts of sectarian violence have been connived at by the RUC-PSNI. One need only look at the case of Robert Hamill to recognise this.

“Unfortunately, as we have seen with the case of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine and, now, in Portadown on Saturday, the PSNI remain willing to facilitate acts of sectarian violence and intimidation in what are regarded as unionist strongholds.

“The PSNI also did its best on Saturday to provoke nationalists into reacting to the unionist provocation, with officers in full riot gear and dogs harassing young people leaving other licensed premises in nearby Woodhouse Street. The young people sensibly refused to be drawn into any confrontation, knowing from past experience that the PSNI wanted to present Saturday night's events as a clash between rival crowds.

“Every week that passes provides further examples of the PSNI’s inability and unwillingness to give any type of service to nationalist communities. This force must be rejected.”

 

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