Wednesday 17 January 2018

Flag demo policing 'disgraceful'

Gerry Kelly said he would be raising the matter at a meeting of the Policing Board
Gerry Kelly said he would be raising the matter at a meeting of the Policing Board

The policing operation to monitor loyalist protesters outside Belfast City Hall has been branded a disaster.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly, who sits on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had serious questions to answer after a mob attacked council staff and property following a controversial vote on the Union flag.

Speaking from City Hall, the north Belfast MLA said: "I have to say, and I don't use these words unless I really mean them, it was a disgraceful police operation - or lack of a police operation."

Mr Kelly continued: "If that had been 1,000 or more republicans, it would have been very different. There they would not have left it that they were able to come into the back of City Hall.

"They indiscriminately attacked cars. We are very, very lucky that they didn't get into the building or we could have been dealing with a lot more injuries."

Two police officers were injured during the disturbances. A council security worker was also attacked.

Councillors passed a proposal by 29 to 21 to have the flag flown only on designated days.

Mr Kelly said he would be raising what he described as major failings at a meeting of the Policing Board on Thursday.

He said: "I am angry because it's not as if they were taken by surprise. This was a well-planned protest. There were discussions with police about previous experience. Everyone knew this was a vote which was going to affect people in different ways.

"At a very early stage today, it was clear it was a huge protest and that it could turn ugly."

Press Association

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