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Cops in bizarre Celtic outburst

By Francesca Ryan

The PSNI has been accused of insulting Celtic fans in the lower Falls after comments made by an officer about attacks on traffic from a Divis footbridge.

In an email conversation between a number of agencies about the proposed removal of unsightly barbed wire from the Cullingtree Road footbridge, a police officer laid the blame for attacks on Westlink vehicles on local Celtic fans.

“Historically,” the officer wrote in an email sent to officials at Belfast City Council and the Department for Regional Development, among others, “there has been an issue with local kids/teenagers climbing on to the top of the footbridge, running back and forward across the span and, if Celtic win a big match, dancing on the bridge. However, if Celtic lose, then they drop objects on passing traffic.”

The comments have caused outrage among residents in the lower Falls and one community worker says the remarks show a complete lack of understanding of local issues.

While acknowledging anti-social activity in the area surrounding th bridge, Mary McConville, who is standing in Court Ward for Sinn Féin in May’s local election, said the incidents described have never happened.

“I have been very concerned that comments like this can be made,” she said.  “These comments are wholly inaccurate and do not reflect Celtic supporters in this area.  To be honest, this has never happened

“Sinn Féin argued from the beginning for the extension of the wire to go across the bridge and we also got the barbed wire due to anti-social activity. To try to blame Celtic supporters is an insult and that’s how it has been taken by residents of this area.”

Terry Quinn of the Falls Residents’ Association said the officer has needlessly complicated what’s purely a crime and anti-social behaviour matter.

“This barbed wire has been up for over a year and was campaigned for by the MLA for the area, Fra McCann,” he said.  “It was always designed to stop anti-social behaviour.  To blame Celtic fans for this absolute nonsense shows a lack of knowledge of what actually happens in this area and is entirely miselading.

“The PSNI have branded Celtic fans as thugs and brought a sectarian element into what is a clear anti-social issue.  If they are going to blame Celtic fans then they don’t understand the issues here.  We would like an apology, as I’m sure would Celtic fans who have been insulted and branded in this manner.”

Police had not replied as we went to press.

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