Northern Ireland

Tour of the North parade: Sinn Fein's Carál Ní Chuilín injured after march protest

Sinn Fein Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has been injured in an incident involving a police Land Rover, after a contentious Orange march in Belfast.

Sinn Fein said she was hit by the PSNI vehicle as she came to the aid of her party colleague Gerry Kelly.

Mr Kelly said he was forced to cling to the front of a moving PSNI Land Rover after failing to stop the vehicle.

Ms Ní Chuilín has been discharged from hospital. The PSNI said the Police Ombudsman is investigating the claims.

The incident happened in the Peter's Hill area of north Belfast on Friday night.

The culture minister and her party colleague were present at a nationalist residents' protest against the annual Tour of the North parade.

Clinging

Ms Ní Chuilín said: "I got injured when the jeep was driving off and to be honest with you, we are very very lucky there are not more serious injuries if not worse in this community.

"There was a bit of recklessness here by some of the people in those jeeps and that is not conduct befitting of the PSNI.

"We will certainly be challenging it."

Her colleague, Mr Kelly, said he tried to stop a PSNI Land Rover in order to speak to officers who had arrested the 16-year-old, but claimed the officer drove off, with Mr Kelly clinging to the front of the PSNI vehicle.

"To use a jeep in that manner, I can't think of any circumstances where it is acceptable police behaviour to drive off with somebody on the bonnet of a jeep," he said.

"I have already spoken to senior officers and I will be taking this to the ombudsman as well.

"What I am annoyed at is the driver of this jeep and whoever was in charge of him doing something which he should not have done.

"I am not making a criticism of every police officer who was here last night. It is in context, but it is bad policing, it did have a huge effect, it does knock things back in this area."

Arrests

During the parade and protest, officers arrested a 20-year-old man for disorderly behaviour and detained a 16-year-old boy for provocative conduct at Peter's Hill.

In response to Sinn Fein's allegations, a PSNI spokesman said the "incident involving Gerry Kelly and Carál Ní Chuilín at Peter's Hill tonight has been referred to the Police Ombudsman and they are investigating".

In an earlier statement, police said that aside from the two arrests, the parade and protest had been "largely peaceful".

The DUP's Jonathan Craig said that the two Sinn Fein members' behaviour had been "unacceptable".

"It is absolutely unacceptable for any member to attempt to direct or obstruct the police in the execution of their duties," he said.

"I will be raising this issue at the Policing Board and also examining fully whether Mr Kelly's actions are in line with the code of conduct for members.

"The police had a duty to apprehend those republicans who attempted to attack the parade and stir-up violent confrontation.

"Anyone obstructing the police should be the focus of investigation instead of lodging complaints with the Police Ombudsman."

TUV leader Jim Allister claimed the incident raised "serious questions about Sinn Fein's supposed commitment to the rule of law".

"I think on Friday night, the Sinn Fein mask on policing slipped and we saw just how conditional their supposed support for policing is," he said.

He also said he would be asking the chief constable of the PSNI, Matt Baggott, to investigate Sinn Fein's video of the incident.

About 1,000 people took part in the annual Tour of the North parade.

Nationalist residents held a protest as marchers passed St Patrick's Catholic Church on Donegall Street.

'Suspected breaches'

Shortly after the parade, there was a brief standoff in North Street as police in riot gear kept rival groups apart.

Chief Superintendent George Clarke, the PSNI's district commander for North and West Belfast, said: "Tonight's parade was largely peaceful; however, there were a number of incidents, which are being investigated by police.

"These include suspected breaches of the Parades Commission determination and an attempt by a number of youths to disrupt the procession as it passed Peter's Hill."

"Officers in the area of Peter's Hill quickly brought the situation under control and separated the youths from the procession," the district commander added.

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