Unionist anger at police over Ormeau Road parade clash

South Belfast Young Conquerors, pictured in Carrickfergus during the junior Orange Order event on March 29. They later travelled to Belfast where they were one of two bands involved in the Ormeau Road march. There is no suggestion that those pictured in this particular image were involved in any disturbance.
South Belfast Young Conquerors, pictured in Carrickfergus during the junior Orange Order event on March 29. They later travelled to Belfast where they were one of two bands involved in the Ormeau Road march. There is no suggestion that those pictured in this particular image were involved in any disturbance.

Unionist representatives have called on the PSNI to explain the actions of officers in quelling what police called a “minor disturbance” involving a loyalist band.

Members of the South Belfast Young Conquerors on Tuesday night claimed some children in the band were sprayed with CS spray when police attempted to move the band away from cars on the Ormeau Road.

The incident took place around 5.15pm on Tuesday as the band paraded along a stretch of the road on its return from a Junior Orange event in Carrickfergus. Police said two officers received minor injuries and that a police motorcycle was damaged.

“Police have arrested one male on suspicion of criminal damage and assault on police,” Superintendent Darrin Jones said.

Although the PSNI statement made no mention of any CS spray or batons being used, there have been several claims that police acted with undue aggression towards the band in an effort to clear a lane of the main road.

The complaints come in the wake of unionist anger at a perceived lack of police action on masked republicans parading in a number of towns to commemorate the Easter Rising.

Following the incident,First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted that she had spoken to the chief constable about the south Belfast incident and would be meeting with senior police officers in due course.

Her DUP colleague Emma Pengelly said: “I strongly urge all participants in the parade and witnesses to make statements to the Ombudsman.”

Another DUP member, Councillor Christopher Stalford, tweeted: “I have contacted senior PSNI officers regarding incident on Ormeau Road. Meeting in the days ahead I hope. Serious questions need answered.”

Councillor Ruth Patterson made her way to the scene of what of what she called an “attack on peaceful bandsmen,” and said she was appalled by what she discovered.

“Children are traumatised and cowering in fear behind their parents. If this is community policing it leaves much to be desired. There is palpable anger within the unionist community”.

Cllr Patterson added: “The band were abiding by the Parades Commission determination - unlike the republicans that the PSNI are so keen to pander to. I will also be seeking an urgent meeting with the PSNI to express my anger.”

The return leg of the parade was making its way from Annadale Embankment on it way to Ballynafeigh Orange Hall with the incident took place.

PUP representative Ian Shanks said: “These deplorable actions cannot and will not go unchallenged. The PSNI must be held accountable for their heavy handed approach which involved wielding batons and using pepper spray”.

TUV South Belfast assembly candidate John Hiddleston also expressed concern at the reports.

“The PSNI have already damaged their reputation with their softly, softly approach to republican parades. If the Patten reforms really where about creating a police force in which the entire community had faith they have miserably failed,” he said.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said it was important that tensions were reduced ahead of the parading season, and added: “It is inappropriate for representatives to use this incident to escalate tensions before the full facts are known.”

Ms Hanna added: “Police will be reviewing CCTV from various sources to corroborate officer report and I understand that they have given a full report to the Police Ombudsman.”

On Tuesday night police said a 26-year-old man had been charged with two counts of assault on police and one count of disorderly behaviour.

He is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on April 26.