APPEALS DECISION SLAMMED !
THE FAILURE BY members of an Ardoyne residents group to overturn their convictions for staging a sit-down protest during a disputed Orange Order parade highlights the one-sided nature of Policing against republicans, a spokesman for the group has said.
Yesterday ( Wednesday 16th May ) eight men, including some members of Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC), had their appeals against conviction in relation to a sit-down protest on the Crumlin Road last July rejected. The eight, including GARC spokesman Dee Fennell, were ordered to pay the £400 fines imposed in December last year. So far a total of 28 people have been convicted in relation to the blockade, which preceded three days of violence in the area. Speaking to the North Belfast News yesterday Fennell said the failure of the appeal brings into focus the comparatively low number of arrests in relation to recent high profile loyalist protests, including the December 2010 protest outside Belfast City Hall over a decision by Sinn Fein mayor Niall O’ Donnghaile not to present an army cadet with an award, anddisturbances during the loyalist Tour of the North Parade in June 2011 when loyalist protesters were seen climbing on Police vans and drinking in the street. ” This just clearly shows the one-sided nature of Policing of parades here,” said Fennell. ” Loyalists seem to be able to protest willy-nilly yet when a group of nationalists hold a peaceful, non-violent sit-down protest against a Orange Order parade they are dragged through the courts. It highlights the continuing demonstration and criminalization of the Ardoyne community.
So far there have been no arrests for the protest at Belfast City Hall because police say no formal statements of complaint were made. There have also been no arrests for the Tour of the North disturbances. A police spokesman also confirmed that there had been no arrests in connection with a 2010 loyalist blockade at the enterance to the Asda supermarket on the Shore Road in support of Asda worker Billy Hunter who was saked for allegedly making a sectarian comment. He subsequently got his job back. Furthermore,there has only been one youth charged in connection with rioting in Rathcoole in October 2010. ” Nationalists have the right to protest peacefully against unwanted loyalist parades in their area, but this is not reflected by the Policing.”
The police spokesman said they ” always seek to make policing decisions to the benefit of the entire community”. ” We do recognise that sometimes policing decisions can be controversial but we would again assure people that any decisions we take are based upon the prevailing need at the time and with the intention of preventing any harm to the community,” he said. Dee Fennell said the eight who failed in their appeal are willing to go to jail rather than pay the fines. He added that GARC will continue to stage peaceful protests against Orange Order parades through Ardoyne. The eight men who appealed were Dee Fennell; Daniel Lundy; John Darragh; Paul Carson; Alan Lundy; William Catney; Robert Jackson and Aiden Ferguson.
WITH THANKS TO : GEMMA BURNS, NORTH BELFAST NEWS.
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