Mark has hit on something with his illegal parade post earlier today. The DUP have a very recent track record of lobbying the PSNI for charges to be brought against individuals involved in illegal parades, as I will outline below. Logically, then, should we be expecting support from these quarters for prosecutions against those involved in today’s illegal loyalist parade?
Here’s the DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt following a meeting with PSNI Chief Constable, Matt Baggott concerning illegal republican parades (27th January 2011)
“There is a perception that the Police are treating illegal republican parades differently from Loyal Order parades. We made it quite clear to the Chief Constable that more must be done to ensure to bring forward prosecutions, but similarly the police need to more effectively communicate when charges are brought forward relating to some of these parades.”
More intriguingly, fellow DUP senior figure, Lord Morrow, made the following pronouncements after the same meeting:
The Chief Constable was left in no doubt that the Police must act against those who deliberately flout the law, as was witnessed in Lurgan on Sunday or Galbally last year. DUP members of the policing Board will be following up on the police response to a number of these parades where we have raised concerns that interviews have not even been held in order to prepare any file for prosecution.
Even if the police were to recommend prosecutions in many cases they would not be taken forward by the PPS because they do not deem them to be in the public interest. If the parade is deemed to be “peaceful” then this makes it even less likely that prosecutions will ensue. This raises the question about the threat of violence and what influence a threat of violence has on police action.
Here’s DUP MLA Stephen Moutray calling for anyone involved in an illegal republican parade in Lurgan earlier this year to be prosecuted:
Stephen Moutray, of the DUP, said he was “deeply concerned” at news of a rally he described as “the latest in a number of illegal parades in Lurgan in the past year”.
The Lurgan MLA said he would be “watching the reaction of the police” and added: “Police will have ample opportunity to identify the people involved and where there is evidence to bring charges, then they must be brought.”
Given that the BBC interviewed DUP councillor Christopher Stalford at the illegal protest, we know that at least one DUP elected representative was in attendance.
All of which begs the question: will the PSNI act impartially and pursue those involved in the illegal parade in the same manner that they have pursued others involved in similar actions from the nationalist/republican community?
It is an important question, not least because the impartiality of the PSNI is crucial to encouraging support for that organisation as it continues to be under pressure from dissident republican attacks.