Policing operation concerns: Unionist politicians to seek meeting with chief constable

Sammy Wilson MP
Sammy Wilson MP

Unionist politicians are to seek an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable to raise concerns about the policing operation at Saturday’s Apprentice Boys parade.

Several senior DUP representatives and TUV leader Jim Allister have criticised the PSNI for their response to members of the Larne-based Clyde Valley Flute Band wearing a Parachute Regiment insignia on the sleeve of their uniforms.

The band was pulled over by police as it made its way home from the parade, and several members had their names taken.

The PSNI said: “A report will be forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service in respect of behaviour and symbols displayed by one band.”

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell accused the police of an “over-the-top” reaction and compared it to events in Belfast on Thursday when officers withdrew from the site of a republican bonfire after coming under attack.

In a joint statement, East Antrim DUP representatives Sammy Wilson MP, David Hilditch MLA and Gordon Lyons MLA said: “The heavy-handedness of the police was completely unwarranted and unjustified, and there are many questions that the police will have to answer. We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable and will put these questions to him directly.”

Mr Allister added: “After multiple events in Londonderry where masked republicans have participated in parades, facilitated by a wide berth by the police, the overbearing harassment of the Larne band on Saturday, presents many questions for the PSNI to answer. This episode will be among the issues I will be raising when I meet the new Chief Constable.”

Asked if the PSNI would be responding to the criticism of its actions, a police spokesperson said they had no further statement to make.

Graeme Stenhouse, governor of the Apprentice Boys, said he did “not know the full story yet” so couldn’t make any comment on the matter.

Clyde Valley Flute Band was contacted but had not responded at time of writing.