Statement by Ballymacarrett District LOL No 6 following the publication of a report by the Police Ombudsman
On the 12th July 2013 Ballymacarrett District LOL No6 was returning to east Belfast along the main Newtownards Road, when its members, bands and supporters were subjected to an unprovoked, premeditated and vicious attack by republicans from the Short Strand. The attack lasted 30 minutes saw several people injured, including a young bands woman who suffered a fractured cheek bone and an Orange woman who required 10 stitches to a leg wound. Dozens of spectators and those on parade were struck by bottles; bricks, paint bombs, golf balls and bottles filled with urine. Many hundreds, especially women and children were traumatised, with thousands of pounds worth of banners; band equipment and personal clothing destroyed during the attack.
The Orange Institution stated at the time that the PSNI were not present in the Short Strand and totally failed to protect those on parade and their supporters. This failure was compounded by the PSNI who released a misleading statement on 13th July that stated; “… very serious disorder in the Lower Newtownards Road area particularly when police officers moved in to protect St Matthew’s chapel.” The serious disorder was directed against those on parade and their supporters, who the PSNI failed to offer any protection for. The Institution with the support of the Unionist leaders, locally elected representatives and community activists called upon the then Chief Constable to apologise. He point blank refused to do so and the PSNI refuted what had happened.
As a consequence the District Lodge compiled a comprehensive dossier and lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman on 27th November 2013. The Ombudsman has now issued his findings, which clearly state in response to our principle complaint that the police failed to protect the parade, which was subject to a sustained and pre planned attack. – “This complaint is substantiated in its entirety.” We have been advised that at the Policing Board on 25th June, the present Chief Constable apologised for the police failures on 12th July 2013. While we welcome the apology it is regrettable that the PSNI have not charged one person out of over 200 involved in the attack, nor has any officer faced disciplinary action for their mistakes.
The Ombudsman’s report makes it quite clear that there was no police presence in the Short Strand area stating “It was considered counter productive and may have inflamed and heightened tensions to deploy police in the Short Strand area” and the PSNI “were satisfied that the Short Strand community had demonstrated that self community policing could be achieved”. We find this disturbing that the safety of those on the Newtownards Road was entrusted to ‘self community policing’. Some light as to who the police trusted came in an interview on Talkback on 15th July 2013 when Gerry Adams stated “our community, including very very brave people in the Short Strand who keep the situation calm, who actually police Orange parades…”
It was that same community who unleashed this well planned vicious and sectarian attack on a lawful parade. We call on our elected representatives to ensure that the PSNI will not again abdicate their role as they did in 2013. We were victims not only of Republican aggression, but also the fact that the police did not have police officers in the Short Strand and therefore could neither prevent nor protect the parade.
Thankfully the truth has finally emerged and an unequivocal apology offered to the people attacked on the Newtownards Road that evening.