Saturday 15 January 2011

Political Policing For Nationalists and Republicans Remain

Since the creation of the Orange State in 1922, the Nationalist and Republican community in the Six Counties has suffered from political and secterian policing. The onset of the peace process promised an end to Unionist control over the RUC and an equal society for all? Elected representatives also promised that a new name and uniform would herald a more civil Police service.

Unfortunately, the following dispute the above empty promises for the greater Ardoyne community. With only one person charged in connection with rioting in Rathcoole last October compared to 71 charged over July's Orange march through Ardoyne. 

Following two nights of rioting in the Unionist area in October, which forced the closure of main roads, the cessation of public transport services and saw two bus drivers assaulted, only one person had been charged.

The 'reformed' RUC attempted to defend the huge disparity between that figure and the 71 people charged over July’s Ardoyne riots saying the Rathcoole riots were "spontaneous" and therefore it was unfair to compare the two. The individual youth charged was one of six people arrested after the violence, but no charges have been brought against the other five.

A bus driver sustained a broken nose, female bus driver was dragged from her vehicle , cars and buses were burned out and police attacked in the two night spree which erupted after a series of raids as part of Operation Stafford which looks into the activities of the UVF in North Belfast.

In comparison 87 people were arrested in connection with the Ardoyne riots following the forcing through of an Orange Order march through the area on July 12 last year. Of these 71 have been charged, 11 released pending a report, three bailed pending enquiries and two released unconditionally.

Following the Ardoyne march, the RUC/PSNI released images of mostly young men and a few underage schoolboys they wanted to speak to about the riots but as in the past, have not released images from the Rathcoole riots.

Stormont Minister, Gerry Kelly said he will be speaking to the PSNI at a senior level to ask them to explain the differences between the two arrest and charges rates. "The essence of good policing is community policing. This must be conducted on an even handed basis regardless of class or creed," he said.

"The huge disparity in arrests and charges being brought in the Rathcoole and Ardoyne cases is alarming. I will be 'challenging them' at a senior level to explain these latest figures. "The community's confidence in the police must be earned. This can only be achieved by them demonstrating by example a balanced approach to investigations such as this."

An RUC/PSNI spokeswoman claimed they are treating the two riot with "the utmost seriousness" with teams of detectives working to bring those involved to 'justice'.

"However, the reality is that these were different public order situations and it would be unfair and unbalanced to make direct comparisons between the two," she said.

"The Rathcoole incidents were of a spontaneous nature and followed a number of searches related to a police investigation into serious crime. The disorder was in a very limited geographic location and was made up of, for the most part, vehicles being set alight by a small group of people within a larger crowd in the area.

"There were no injuries to police. This is not to minimise what happened - as the local community clearly suffered from the disorder and disruption - but to put it in context."

The spokeswoman said it couldn't be compared to the riots in Ardoyne. On the other hand, Ardoyne was a large-scale planned police operation, including a very large evidence-gathering operation. Given the history of the situation, large-scale public order was anticipated and prepared for," she said. "In the event, officers faced a very large number of people involved in serious disorder in the shape of sustained violence over four days. One officer, who had a breeze blocked dropped onto her head, was seriously injured. Over 80 officers in total were injured."