The fact that disquiet regarding the PSNI’s handling of events in Coleraine culminating in the murder of Kevin McDaid is growing is evident in the swift appearance of an Assistant Chief Constable on the television today and by the actions of the Chief Constable in calling in the Police Ombudsman to investigate the incident. The most serious allegation– directly refuted by Assistant Chief Constable, Alistair Finlay- is that PSNI officers watched on as the 49 year old catholic was beaten to death, an allegation attributed to Mr. McDaid’s family. But there are other, significant and serious questions which must be asked of and answered by the PSNI in the coming days.
The speed and seeming certainty with which ACC Finlay dismissed allegations of loyalist paramilitary involvement is noteworthy, but upon closer examination it is easy to see why he should be so concerned to divert attention from this line of thought.
We are led to believe that the PSNI were liaising between community representatives throughout the day due to growing tensions of a loyalist ‘invasion’ of the area, yet ACC Finlay brushed aside queries regarding why the police failed to maintain a presence in the area. Could it perhaps be the case that, once the local police had ‘assurances’ from certain loyalist leaders that there would not be an attack they simply took them at their word and left the scene? That would certainly explain why he was so keen to divert attention away from organised loyalist involvement, and his depiction of those responsible as a “maverick” group.
Which raises another question. The local PSNI would have been fully aware that a similar, vicious sectarian mob attack on this small largely catholic community occurred less than a year ago, when loyalists objected to the gathering of items for an internment bonfire in ‘their’ town. That incident led to considerable criticisms from local nationalist and republican representatives, and to my knowledge no prosecutions. Given the precedent, why would the local PSNI not have taken steps to ensure that an effective police presence was maintained in the very real event of a sectarian attack on this occasion?
And then there’s this.
The Irish News report today carries this from an unnamed ‘witness’:
….a mediation police officer had told nationalists that an agreement had been reached with loyalists in the town that they would tolerate the flying of tricolours in the Pates Lane/ Somerset Drive area on Sunday as long as they were taken down the following morning.”
The actions of the PSNI officers during the day in ‘liaising’ with community representatives to reach an understanding to defuse tensions must also be looked at. As you can see above, it was reported in the print media today that a ‘deal’ had been struck to remove the Irish National flag and bunting from the district within a 24 hour period, presumably in return for something from loyalists- should we assume that that something was an assurance from a loyalist paramilitary source to the PSNI that there would be no ‘action’ taken against the local catholic populace?
All of which is revealing of a PSNI mentality towards the flying of flags which runs completely contrary to the PSNI response to the erection of loyalist flags in many mixed residential areas across the north- not to mention areas which are predominantly protestant. The thought will no doubt occur to many that, if republicans were of a mind (and thankfully they are not) to demand the removal of loyalist bunting and flags from a largely protestant district in a majority catholic town in return for not ‘invading’ the area, would the PSNI response have been different?