Following on from Mick’s earlier initiative, I have decided to start a Ballyclare Riot Arrest & Charge Watch to keep Slugger readers updated on the PSNI’s progress on this front. In yesterday’s Irish News, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, Dave Jones, penned a later in which he angrily rejected the charge made in an earlier letter to the paper by a ‘Fra Hughes’ that the organisation was ‘institutionally sectarian.’
Unfortunately for Mr Jones, the facts surrounding the behaviour of his organisation this summer would suggest considerable grounds exist for believing that the PSNI at a leadership level have a different approach to dealing with loyalist rioters and republican rioters. Instead of his letter of reply being the final word, the paper has given extensive coverage today to the disturbing anomalies emerging between the PSNI’s approach to loyalist rioters in south-east Antrim and its actions in other areas of the north following recent violence.
Today’s Irish News leads with a front page declaration that not a single arrest has been made in relation to the Ballyclare rioting and associated supportive riots across south east Antrim organised by loyalists in Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Larne. Lest we forget, this was a riot in which loyalists used masonry to attack police officers, an offence which much was made of during last summer’s rioting in Ardoyne and to which a Spanish man received a four year jail sentence. Furthermore,loyalists hijacked and drove a bus into a PSNI land rover during the riot, injuring six police officers.
Yet the PSNI apology issued to loyalists subsequently appears to have been followed up with a determination to not pursue those loyalists involved in the rioting- and, of course, we know that the flags erected outside the catholic church have returned unhindered by the PSNI.
This raises serious questions regarding the credibility of a PSNI which has shown itself only too willing to actively pursue nationalist rioters in Ardoyne in particular. Following rioting in Ardoyne last year, almost 40 people had been arrested by July 27th. During the same period this year, not one loyalist has been arrested in Ballyclare, a stark figure.
The singe night’s rioting in Ardoyne this year appears to have led to some 23 arrests, whilst multiple nights of rioting in East Belfast following the UVF attack on the Short Strand has yielded 21 arrests. Only three arrests have been made in relation to loyalist rioting in Portadown whilst 12 arrests have followed on from trouble in Derry during July.
Slugger readers will also recall that loyalist rioting in south east Antrim last October yielded very few arrests, and to my knowledge no charges have been brought against any of the loyalists involved in the two nights of rioting in Rathcoole.
All of which leads to the unavoidable conclusion that the PSNI are much more comfortable pursuing, arresting and seeking charges against nationalists than loyalists.
I can’t imagine that as being the concluding headline the PSNI were seeking following another contentious marching season. Of course, there could be a series of arrests currently being plotted for the south east Antrim area, in which case our Ballyclare Watch may have some progress to report soon……