A West Belfast republican has slammed the PSNI over the “massive contradictions” in their treatment of loyalist protestors and that of republicans since the union flag was removed from Belfast’s City Hall.
Lenadoon man Pádraic Mac Coitir, a member of the socialist republican group éirígí, spent seven days in Maghaberry prison in the run-up to Christmas for refusing to pay a fine slapped on him after he took part in a peaceful sit-down protest at Ardoyne shops ahead of a contentious Orange parade in July 2010.
As he watched TV in his prison cell, he looked on aghast as loyalist protestors brought Belfast to a standstill while police officers stood and watched while the traffic was stopped, often chatting with those blocking the roads.
“We were protesting against the Orange Order and their hangers-on marching past Ardoyne. It was a peaceful protest,” said Pádraic. “When I was in Maghaberry I was aware that loyalists were blocking off the roads across the six counties and all the while they were facilitated by the PSNI. This always seems to be the case with the cops – loyalists can cause mayhem but when republicans take to the streets they’re quickly beaten off.
“I, along with other republicans, including Rab Jackson, Tony Catney and Dee Fennell, took part in a peaceful sit-down protest. There were 40 of us fined and 16 of us refused to pay and were prepared to go to jail.
“Over the past four to five weeks there have been massive contradictions in the state with loyalists out blocking roads and bringing the town at times to a standstill while the cops stand around. We held a passive protest but were dragged off the street and fined there and then.
“We’ve all seen the news and read the papers over the weeks since this [loyalist protests] began and it’s clear that the blocking of main arterial routes over Christmas was allowed to happen.
“If there were protests to be held on the Falls Road, Springfield Road or Glen Road protestors wouldn’t be allowed to stay there for two minutes, yet loyalists have been able to block the roads for up to an hour at a time and absolutely nothing has been done about it.
“Whenever we have attended a peaceful protest the PSNI are shouting over loudspeakers that what we are doing is illegal and how we shouldn’t be there but we highlight our issue and move on in a peaceful way.”