Northern Ireland

Police dismiss dissident republican harrassment claims

Fr Paddy O'Kane
Image caption Fr Paddy O'Kane met families after challenging dissident republicans over their campaign of violence

The police in Londonderry have rejected allegations that they have been harrassing dissident republicans and their families.

Local priest Father Paddy O'Kane he said had been "shocked" by accounts of police brutality when he met dissident supporters on Wednesday night.

He said he was told that the lives of people who police wanted to become informers had been made hell.

PSNI Area Commander Jon Burrows said he had "severe doubts" about the claims.

"I hear people talking about the rights of children - we are actually out trying to protect the rights of children," the Acting Chief Inspector said.

"Let's cast out minds back 12 years ago to the Omagh bomb."

He said nine children had been killed in the explosion including an 18-month-old infant.

"We are out trying to disrupt people who would bring bombs onto our streets and they are still doing it," he said.

Fr O'Kane agreed to meet supporters and families of dissident republicans after he has publically challenged armed groups on their campaign of violence.

Dissident republicans have been blame for a number of recent car bomb explosions and hoax bomb alerts.

The Ballymagroarty parish priest said that he had heard "harrowing stories" from people who were "angry and afraid".

He said he had "no regrets" about meeting the families but also said that he will not publicise any future talks.

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