Protestors make themselves heard inside and outside hall

By Gráinne McWilliams

DISSIDENT republican groups staged a noisy protest at a meeting of the West Belfast sub group of the District Policing Partnership (DPP), accusing the PSNI of attempting to recruit informers in the Ballymurphy area.

Protestors were present both inside and outside the meeting which was held in Belfast Metropolitan College’s Whiterock campus.

The PSNI’s Inspector Sean Taylor was shouted down by the protestors as he attempted to read out a report into alleged child abduction attempts in West and North Belfast in recent months.

“Stop searching my house,” shouted one republican protestor. “Stop searching my car. Stop harassing my children. Stop arresting me. Stop arresting my kids.”

As some members of the public asked for the meeting to be allowed to continue, the man added: “If I cannot take my children to school he’s not coming in here and saying his piece. Stop recruiting informers in Ballymurphy to wreck the place.”

As the protest continued, Tony Catney from the James Connolly Republican Society read out a statement calling on people not to “allow yourself to be used to give credibility to a corrupt and unrepresentative paramilitary force”.

“Help to create a truly accountable policing service by exposing the sham and demand real change,” said Mr Catney. “Make a start in this process by leaving the charade of policing boards behind us and begin to campaign for the future we deserve, free from the oppression and denial of civil liberties inflicted by political policing.”

After the statement was read out, a verbal confrontation took place between the protestors and members of Sinn Féin, including local MLA Pat Sheehan and Belfast Chair Bobby Storey.

“You don’t speak for this community,” Mr Sheehan told the protestors.

Speaking after the protest, West Belfast sub group chair, SDLP Upper Falls Councillor Tim Attwood (left, said: “It is important to note that normal business resumed and members of the public questioned the PSNI on important local issues relating to anti-social behaviour, sexual assaults in the area, burglaries and the issue of quad bikes.

“People have the right to protest but do not have the right to disrupt or stop DPP meetings. There is now a positive dialogue and partnership between the PSNI, the DPP and local communities in West Belfast. The vast majority of people support the PSNI and want to see pro-active policing in the community to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

“I wish to praise the members of the public, the DPP members and staff and the PSNI for their determination to stay and conclude the business of the DPP, despite provocation from some of the protestors.”

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