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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 17 September, 2019
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PSNI defends policing of Derry march where loyalist band displayed Parachute Regiment symbol

The PSNI said they were faced with “difficult policing decisions” at the weekend in Derry.

Assistant chief constable Alan Todd addressing the media today.
Assistant chief constable Alan Todd addressing the media today.
Image: David Young/PA Images

THE PSNI HAS defended its policing of a loyalist march in Derry at the weekend, where a flute band paraded close to the scene of Bloody Sunday with a Parachute Regiment symbol and the letter “F” on the sleeves of their uniforms.

The symbol and letter reference Soldier F, the former British soldier facing charges over his role in the killings of two people on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972. The former soldier is due to appear in court in a few weeks’ time. 

The Antrim-based band were escorted by police through the city on the march and police then made efforts to identify members of the band involved.

Permitting the band to march displaying these symbols was criticised, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood seeking a meeting with the Apprentice Boys of Derry which organised the march that was attended by thousands. 

“It is a matter of profound regret that a band chose to march on the streets of this city displaying a motif of the Parachute Regiment on their uniform,” Eastwood said. “This has caused deep hurt and distress to many victims in Derry.”

In a statement today, PSNI assistant chief constable Alan Todd defended the actions of the police, saying it was an example of the “many difficult policing decisions” that officers are faced with in Northern Ireland.

“The vast majority of the people who arrived in Derry at the weekend to participate in the parade did so within the law and with due regard to that context,” Todd said.

One band, chose to take an approach which we believed would have interfered with our legitimate purpose of keeping the peace and keeping people safe.  On that basis we engaged with them and sought their cooperation to address that in a constructive way; they chose not to do so.  We sought to engage the involvement of the organisers and their marshals to assist us in that and they were unable to do so. 

Todd said that with large numbers of people delayed a decision was made to allow the parade to continue with the band members displaying the symbols.

“Once the parade was finished we took steps to seek to identify those within the band so that we could fulfil our duty to put the matters and facts before the Public Prosecution Service in order that they might determine if there was any liability on the part of those people responsible,” he said. 

The assistant chief constable added that the event passed off peacefully with no one hurt, and said efforts must now turn to dialogue so that the “good work of years gone by can be continued”. 

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Sean Murray

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