PSNI officers at Sean Graham Bookmakers commemoration did not intend to cause any offence, says Police Federation

Young officers who intervened following the Sean Graham bookmakers shootings commemoration did not intend to cause offence, the Police Federation in Northern Ireland said.

Young officers who intervened following the Sean Graham bookmakers shootings commemoration did not intend to cause offence, the Police Federation in Northern Ireland said.

One was suspended and another repositioned following Friday’s incident in Belfast’s Ormeau Road.

Mass gatherings are banned to curb the spread of coronavirus.

PFNI chair Mark Lindsay. Photo: PFNI/PA Wire

Federation chair Mark Lindsay said the police had no idea of the sensitivities involved and had asked advice from more senior colleagues after noticing a crowd while driving by.

He said: “These two officers under no circumstances went there to cause any offence or any hurt.

“They were simply unaware of it.”

Mark Sykes, who was shot several times in the 1992 loyalist massacre that claimed the lives of five people, was handcuffed and arrested in chaotic scenes posted on social media.

Mr Lindsay told the BBC’s Nolan Show the officers are from different community backgrounds.

“There is almost an innocence in that that actually is the younger generation who, whilst I accept as police officers should be aware of these sensitivities, these people had no idea what was happening there so their intention was not to cause any offence.”

He said they were driving past and saw the crowd.

When they stopped, they were totally unaware of the context.

Mr Lindsay said others in the force did know of that context and that raised its own questions.

When they asked for advice from senior colleagues about how to deal with the situation, they were told to sit back and engage with the organiser once the event was over.

Mr Lindsay added: “They did not walk into the middle of the event, they waited until the event was over and they identified someone they thought may have been the organiser, whenever all the equipment was being put away into a van, and that is whenever this has gone wrong.”

Sinn Fein and the DUP are at loggerheads over the policing of the commemoration and Chief Constable Simon Byrne’s high-profile intervention in the days after it.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has highlighted “unprecedented anger” over the arrest of Mr Sykes.

First Minister Arlene Foster has said the events had all the hallmarks of trial by social media while other Democratic Unionists believe the officers on the ground have been “scapegoated”.

The Police Ombudsman is investigating.

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