Tour of the North parade: Sinn Fein members criticised

Video filmed by Sinn Fein showing Gerry Kelly clinging to the front of a PSNI vehicle

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Unionist politicians have criticised Sinn Fein members Gerry Kelly and Carál Ní Chuilín over an incident involving a police Land Rover in north Belfast.

Ms Ní Chuilín, the culture minister, was taken to hospital after the incident on Friday night following the loyalist Tour of the North parade.

Sinn Fein said she was hit by a Land Rover as she tried to help her party colleague Gerry Kelly.

He was carried on the front of the vehicle for a short distance.

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

Ms Ní Chuilín was discharged from hospital on Friday night.

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."

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said: "What would happen if you or I obstructed the passage of a police vehicle?

"In choosing to obstruct a police vehicle when an arrest had occurred, Gerry Kelly allowed the crowd to intimidate and attack the police vehicle. This could have caused the situation to escalate.

"He should be accountable to the law for his irresponsible behaviour."

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said: "Weekend events when Gerry Kelly, in particular, sought to decide who should and shouldn't be arrested in north Belfast, and his resulting obstruction of the police and apparent control of a mob attacking police property, raises 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 also said he would be asking the chief constable of the PSNI, Matt Baggott, to investigate Sinn Fein's video of the incident.

Chris Lyttle, from the cross-community Alliance Party, said: "Respect for the rule of law and the operational independence of the police are key principles that were supported by all political parties present at recent discussions in Cardiff.

"A key outcome of the Cardiff discussions was a commitment from all elected representatives to move beyond selective and partisan responses to policing operations and the application of the rule of law. Sinn Fein must clarify where they stand on these principles."

The SDLP's Conall McDevitt said his party had "expressed deep concern about aspects of the police operation directly to very senior officers and we will continue to do so through the Policing Board".

However, he added: "We all need to show leadership and step back from seeking selfish partisan gain from parading or specific incidents."

The PSNI said the Police Ombudsman is investigating.

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: "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".

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.

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