SF meet PSNI after Rasharkin re-route

A Sinn Féin delegation has met with senior officers to discuss the party's concerns over how police handled a band parade in Rasharkin.

Officers changed the agreed route of the march in the village on Friday, August 20, without consulting the Parades Commission following a bomb scare, Mr. McKay claimed.

Police said they were acting in the best interests of safety.

Speaking at that time, PSNI Chief Inspector Ryan Henderson explained: "The decision was taken that it was in the best interests of everyone to allow the parade to proceed along the route in reverse”.

Sinn Fin north Antrim MLA Daith McKay said the meeting, last Monday, was "useful".

"We view this as the beginning in a series of meetings in order to ensure that there is no repeat of this kind of episode in the future", Mr McKay said.

"Amongst the issues raised was the fact that the PSNI should not be determining parade routes; this was compounded by the fact that the parade itself took place after midnight and therefore on a new date without any determination. This is particularly significant given the fact that this is the most contentious band parade in the north."

Mr McKay said the PSNI "received numerous phone calls from residents in Rasharkin regarding the intimidation which took place in the south of the village and that there was a possibility of a significant breach of the peace."

According to the Sinn Fin MLA, the policing operation saw "a number of young nationalists pushed back unnecessarily after the parade had passed."

"Yet no such action was taken against the loyalists who were allowed to gather at the bottom of the village", he said.

The Rasharkin Residents Association said there was "lot of anger amongst local residents here in the wake of the parade".

However the Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors defended the re-routing, saying: "We and the greater public are aware the people opposed to us are only using the parade to further their political agenda.

"This was the case on Friday with a hoax bomb scare disrupting the parade with the object of creating tension and the hope this would plunge our community into violence.

"The band therefore took the decision, with the support of the police on the ground to reversing the parade route, thus taking bands away from the flashpoint of the hoax, and doing our best to ensure the parade got started, and finished without any more disruption."

DUP North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey has praised the band for their "approach to the parade in the village".

"It is quite apparent that there are republican elements within the area who will simply not tolerate any Orange or Protestant presence within the village.

“The decision to re-route the parade on Friday night was made for responsible reasons and the reaction from Daithi McKay unfortunately was as sad as it was predictable", Mr Storey said.

The parade was delayed by nearly three hours as the army bomb squad examined a suspicious object found at the Orange Hall in Main Street in the town.

The street, along which the bands were due to march, was cordoned off until 10pm.

The security alert was later declared a hoax.