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PSNI meets politicians over Derry march where loyalist band displayed Parachute Regiment symbol

The meeting came after bricks and bottles were thrown at police during disturbances in Derry last night.

DUP Leader Arlene Foster
DUP Leader Arlene Foster
Image: Liam McBurney via PA Images

Updated Aug 13th 2019, 9:16 PM

THE PSNI HAS met with political representatives over the loyalist march in Derry over 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.

In a statement today, PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said that police met  with political representatives in two separate meetings today, which he described as “robust and constructive”. 

“We explained what police did and why. We also listened carefully to all the strong concerns that have been raised about how we carried out our actions,” Martin said. 

“As with all our policing operations, there will be a full debrief of our actions on Saturday and we will learn any lessons that result from it,” he said. 

Today’s discussions were helpful and reinforced the importance of dialogue in restoring the good will that has surrounded parades in Derry/Londonderry over many years.

Commenting on the talks, DUP leader Arlene Foster said they “do not believe motifs worn by band members were illegal and they did not tangibly threaten a breach of the peace”.

Foster said the DUP “welcomed the opportunity to challenge the PSNI on this operation”. 

“Despite the PSNI publicly and swiftly describing the events as a successful operation, it is telling that they have conceded to us that details around the level of resources deployed and individual decisions taken, particularly in relation to the detention of the band, have not yet been established,” Foster said. 

“They have confirmed that a review of tactics will take place. This should happen immediately,” she said. 

Foster said the DUP “believes firmly in law and order” and that it will “continue to support the PSNI in tackling real and pressing threats to the public”. 

However, policing must be fair and even-handed and as elected representatives we will not shy away from holding the police to account or reflecting frustration and anger present in local communities.

We would urge the Chief Constable and his senior command team learn lessons from the past week in order to address increasing frustration across the board.

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.”

Bricks and bottles

The meeting came after bricks and bottles were thrown at police during disturbances in the Bogside area of Derry last night. 

24 petrol bombs and six paint bombs were also thrown in the streets and that police patrols came under attack from youths throwing missiles including bricks and bottles, according to the PSNI.

Between 30 and 40 people were involved in the disturbances which lasted from early evening into the night, the PSNI said.

A small barricade was also erected and burned at Fahan Street. A video posted on Facebook shows the burning barricade.

A laser pen was also shone at a PSNI helicopter during last night’s disruption.

In a statement today, Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said: “This is the third night that the people of this city have had to put up with unwanted disorder and destruction. No one wants to see these despicable scenes on our streets.

Some of the those involved in last night’s trouble were extremely young teenagers and I have no doubt that this disorder is being orchestrated by much older people and that these youths are being used to attack police and significant symbolic sites around our city walls.

McCalmont urged young people “to pull back from this behaviour” and asked “those with influence within our community to use that influence positively and help dissuade young people from participating in public disorder”.

“It must be made clear to them that they are risking their safety and that of others, as well as running the risk of a criminal conviction which could have a long-lasting impact on their future prospects,” he said.

McCalmont said police have gathered a significant amount of evidence over recent days and that he is “confident that arrests will follow”. 

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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