SF claim criminal damage and abuse by Glenarm protesters

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SINN Fein has asked for a meeting with local PSNI chiefs to discuss policing of Union flag protests in Glenarm.

Coast Road councillor James McKeown said he will raise claims referred to him last week, including allegations that a vehicle was damaged during a protest and that passers-by were subjected to “vile sectarian abuse”.

East Antrim Sinn Fein Assembly member Oliver McMullan, meanwhile, has claimed that the protesters are trying to turn Glenarm into “an interface”.

Cllr McKeown said he received calls last week following a protest at the bridge on Monday, February 4 at around 6.30pm. A constituent from Carnlough claimed that his works van had been damaged by protesters using flag poles.

“There were a few dents on the van and when he got out to speak to the protesters the police advised him to get back in and just drive on.

“This was a man who had been on the go since six in the morning and wanting to get back home. He was not happy about it at all.”

Cllr McKeown said he was also informed that a woman “out for a walk on the Coast Road” was subjected to “vile sectarian abuse” by some of the protesters. “To shout things at people who are just out for an evening walk, and particularly women, is just unacceptable,” he said.

He forwarded a picture of a poster erected at the bridge by protesters, which read: “Sinn Fein/IRA not wanted in Glenarm”.

Cllr McKeown said: “We had election posters there at the elections but took them down because we were told it is a neutral place. If so, people should be able to walk there without any harassment.

“As for Sinn Fein not being wanted, I think it would surprise some of the people who put up the posters the number of clients from Glenarm who come to us with issues that concern them and we as a party will continue with the constituency work that we have been mandated to do.”

He repeated a claim that “very few” of the flag protesters are local. This week he said: “This time there were two car loads came in from the Broughshane area and again there were was a big contingent again from Larne.”

MLA Oliver McMullan said: “I believe there is a tactic to move the protest out of Larne and up the coast to Glenarm to create an interface with Carnlough. It is not about Glenarm, which doesn’t need this whatsoever.”

He added: “We have asked for a meeting with the PSNI because community relations with police are at an all-time low.”