Sammy Wilson: Police owe flute band ‘at least an apology’

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DUP MP Sammy Wilson has called on police to apologise for their response to a loyalist flute band that wore Parachute Regiment insignia on their shirts during an Apprentice Boys parade.

Clyde Valley Flute Band from Larne wore shirts with the emblem and the letter ‘F’ at Saturday’s march.

Police officers flanked the band and later stopped their bus and took the names of some members.

The DUP and UUP met PSNI officials separately on Tuesday to discuss the policing operation.

Mr Wilson was part of a delegation, including party leader Arlene Foster, who attended what he termed a “very robust” meeting at PSNI headquarters in Belfast.

Speaking to the News Letter after the meeting, the East Antrim MP said: “We came away with no answers as to why the police behaved as they did.

“We raised a number of points, including that we did not believe the band had done anything illegal. Also, we asked why the police did nothing to intervene in a provocative and illegal protest by dissident republicans during the parade.

“Police have said they will review the operation. I think they should at the very least issue an apology to the band.”

UUP leader Robin Swann, who led his party’s delegation, said some aspects of the policing operation had been “unhelpful to say the least”.

He added: “The police have agreed to look at several issues which we raised with them regarding the police handling of events on the day.

“It is now time to repair the damage that has been done to relationships and all sides must get round the table to re-establish trust and respect going forward.”

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said the discussions were “helpful” and “reinforced the importance of dialogue in restoring the goodwill that has surrounded parades in Londonderry over many years”.

He added: “We welcomed the opportunity to meet with political representatives in two separate meetings.

“The meetings were 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.”

DCC Martin added that, as with all policing operations, there will be a “full debrief” of the actions taken by officers on Saturday.

“We will learn any lessons that result from it,” he added.

Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion said Saturday’s events had caused “deep anger” in the city.

She added that she was seeking a meeting with the ABOD to challenge what she termed an “act of “bad faith” by the association.