Maginness' 'grave concern' for Gerry Kelly 'clinging' to PSNI vehicle

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

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An SDLP MLA has said he was very concerned for Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly during an incident involving a police Land Rover in Belfast.

Alban Maginness said he thought Mr Kelly could have been seriously injured during the incident, which followed the loyalist Tour of the North parade.

Mr Kelly was carried on the front of the PSNI vehicle for a short distance.

Mr Maginness said it was a "very ugly situation" that had the potential for serious disorder.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Monday, Mr Maginness said: "For the first time in my political career, I had grave concern for the welfare of Gerry Kelly.

"I did think he would be injured and seriously injured. I do think it was inappropriate for the vehicle to drive off in the way that it did."

Unionist politicians have criticised Mr Kelly and his party colleague Carál Ní Chuilín over the incident, saying he was obstructing the police.

Sinn Fein said Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín was hit by the Land Rover as she tried to help Mr Kelly during Friday night's incident. She was taken to hospital.

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.

Start Quote

We are coming into a very, very difficult parading season and we've got to get this right, all of us, including the police”

End Quote Alban Maginness SDLP

But Mr Maginness, who witnessed the incident, said Mr Kelly was not trying to obstruct police.

The SDLP MLA said that when the PSNI vehicle drove off "the only option" Mr Kelly had was to "cling onto the front of the vehicle".

"I believe that all of us should learn lessons from that situation," he said.

"The issue is how do we deal with such situations in the future, in a way in which further disorder is abated?

"We are coming into a very, very difficult parading season and we've got to get this right, all of us, including the police."

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

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs and Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister accused Mr Kelly of obstructing the police.

The PSNI said the Police Ombudsman was investigating the incident.

Meanwhile, the two men arrested following the Tour of the North have been released.

A 20 year old was given a fixed penalty fine for disorderly behaviour, and the 16 year old who was the subject of Mr Kelly's incident with the police has been released pending a report to the PPS.

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