TUV: Contrasting policing of bonfires and NW attacks

PSNI officers at the scene of the Cluan Place bonfire in east Belfast as contractors remove material from the 11th night bonfire. 'Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
PSNI officers at the scene of the Cluan Place bonfire in east Belfast as contractors remove material from the 11th night bonfire. 'Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The PSNI has rejected TUV claims that it used contrasting levels of resources to police loyalist bonfires in east Belfast and sectarian attacks on Protestant homes in Londonderry over the summer.

TUV leader Jim Allister yesterday released a copy of his letter to the Chief Constable, dated 11 July, in which he inquires about the comparative scale of operations.

On 10 July, he said, there were over 40 Land Rovers and 200 officers in East Belfast to deal with a dangerous bonfire at Bloomfield Walkway.

“This stands in stark contrast to events in Londonderry where Protestant property has come under attack by petrol bombers,” he said. “On the night of the 8 July there is evidence of thugs approaching the Fountain area in broad daylight in a repeat performance of what had happened on previous nights, and [were] able to stone the area without a police officer in sight.”

He pressed Chief Constable George Hamilton to clarify the level of police resources at the Protestant Fountain Estate in comparison to east Belfast.

Responding belatedly this week due to staff leave, ACC Alan Todd confirmed the TUV estimate of resources used to protect Department of Infrastructure (DFI) contractors removing bonfire materials in east Belfast.

In Londonderry, he said, significant resources were overtly and covertly deployed, with further resources available, the scale of which was in line with the “Policing our Community ethos” which had been “agreed and accepted by local representatives from the effected communities”. He added that

Mr Todd said that “both operational responses were proportionate to their particular circumstances”.

But Mr Allister said that to be advised that resources in Londonderry were “in line with ‘policing with the community ethos’ while no such comment is made about what happened in East Belfast is extremely telling”. The PSNI “did what Sinn Fein told the to do” in Londonderry, he claimed.

Meanwhile, loyalist activist Jamie Bryson says that mediation to reduce risks from bonfires at Bloomfield Walkway and Cluan Place were underway in July when the PSNI and Belfast City Council “undermined this by moving in to remove materials”.

ACC Todd acknowledged that rumours of a planned “intervention” were undermining mediation and that police gave assurances this would not happen on the weekend of 7 July. However this changed on 10 July when a court order led DFI to ask for PSNI support for contractors in the removal of bonfire materials, he said.