War of words over security alert

By Ciara Quinn

The PSNI have been criticised after residents in Poleglass had to seek shelter in a taxi depot in the early hours of the morning after they were evacuated from their homes. Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Magennis said residents of the Glenwood area were “extremely angry” that they had to be moved from their homes in the early hours of last Thursday morning after the discovery of a loaded shotgun in a nearby disused nursing home.

“In the process the PSNI chose not to contact any community or elected representatives and moved the families to a local 24-hour taxi depot which is wholly inappropriate for such a situation. Had contact been made with the local chapel or the Sally Gardens Community Centre they could have been opened offering much more resources and comfort for those affected,” he said.

Angry Glenwood Court resident Imelda Wright said the way residents had been treated was “a bloody disgrace”.

“The residents from Glenwood were livid that we were out of our homes from 3.45am until almost 9am last Thursday morning. Some of us were lucky to be able to take our cars and sit in them beside St Kieran’s Primary School. Others were standing about freezing and many had babies and toddlers in prams.

“The PSNI kept us up-to-date with what was going on and we were told on three separate occasions that someone was coming to open the community centre, but no-one came,” she added.

Cllr Magennis told the Andersonstown News that there is a balance to be struck between safety, managing community relations and looking after those affected by such incidents.

“The PSNI for their part got this balance all wrong and we will be asking them to explain to this community why they chose to act in this manner. We have also provided, once again, the PSNI with a full list of numbers of local representatives to ensure that this situation cannot be allowed to happen again.”

Area Commander Darrin Jones said the PSNI are “committed to ensuring the safety of all residents in this area and apologise that we had to evacuate families during the hours of the morning”.

“We would like to thank the residents for their patience during the disruption they had to endure,” he added. “However, we make no apologies for taking immediate action to make safe an area where a loaded weapon was discovered. Police have a responsibility to tackle and investigate crime and will not take risks with people’s lives.

“While we do not want to cause disruption or inconvenience to the local community our first priority will always be their safety.

“We requested assistance from Lisburn City Council to identify an emergency rest centre for any residents who had not gone to friends and neighbours houses.

“We understand that the Council attempted to contact keyholders for the nearby community centre but were unable to do so and the Council offered to open Brook Activity Centre as an alternative.

“However, residents were instead taken to a nearby business open 24/7 who kindly facilitated them,” added Commander Jones.

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