Policing Board to consider concerns over coffin gunfire

The coffin of Peggy O'Hara flanked by four female members of the INLA in Londonderry.
The coffin of Peggy O'Hara flanked by four female members of the INLA in Londonderry.

The chief constable will be questioned over the PSNI’s approach to republican paramilitary funerals at the next meeting of the Policing Board, Nelson McCausland has said.

A number of other DUP MLAs have also expressed concern that shots were fired over the coffin of a hunger striker’s mother in Londonderry earlier this week.

Dissident republicans are using such paramilitary displays to assert themselves

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland

The incident took place on Wednesday evening when members of the INLA flanked the flag draped remains Peggy O’Hara outside her home in the Templegrove area of the city. The 84-year-old was the mother of INLA man Patsy O’Hara who died in the Maze prison in 1981.

One man armed with a rifle fired a volley of three shots that was greeted by applause from small crowd that had gathered.

Mr McCausland said the chief constable must ensure there will be “proper evidence gathering teams” in place to monitor Mrs O’Hara’s funeral on Saturday morning.

Listing three other paramilitary displays at the funerals of prominent republicans in 2014, the North Belfast MLA has posed 20 questions to chief constable George Hamiliton – highlighting concerns that the apparently “low-key” approach being taken by police is proving ineffective.

“Dissident republicans are using such paramilitary displays to assert themselves. On each occasion we have called on the PSNI to take action against the organisers and participants of such displays. So what action have they taken?” Mr McCausland said.

After posing a number of questions – including what evidence gathering operations have the police put in place, and what charges have been brought following the republican funerals – Mr McCausland adds: “These are questions that may well be asked at the next meeting of the Policing Board, but they are also questions that others and I will want to ask directly to the chief constable.

“Its time for the police to step up to the mark and ensure there are no breaches of the law when it comes to republicans. These events should be policed effectively and proactively.”

Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said the PSNI must take action against those who were involved in terrorist activity around the O’Hara home on Wednesday, and also called on the local council to investigate the presence of independent councillor Gary Donnelly who was filmed at the scene as the shots were fired..

A PSNI spokesman said: “We have received correspondence from Mr McCausland and will respond in due course.”