Following on from breaches identified at the recent funeral of republican figure Eamonn McCourt, the DUP Leader Arlene Foster and the Party’s lead Policing Board representative Mervyn Storey North Antrim MLA, have challenged the Chief Constable to clarify what police action has been taken in response to ‘repeated lawbreaking’ by republicans in the past eighteen months.
Commenting after Mrs Foster alongside the Party’s Policing Board members met with the Chief Constable, Arlene Foster said:
‘‘The police action in response to several high-profile republican funerals which blatantly and deliberately breached Covid regulations has damaged confidence in the PSNI. I made clear to the Chief Constable that rebuilding trust will be an up-hill journey.
“There is now a widespread perception that when it comes to upholding the rule of law republicans benefit from a soft-touch approach. I appreciate the importance of risk assessments on every operation, but it is also important that law and order is not hostage to a threat of violence.
“While everyone else faces the full rigour of law enforcement and rightly so there seems to be a select group who are perceived to be treated differently. This isn’t something we should have to tolerate. The law should apply equally to everyone in our society and the police must be seen to enforce it fairly without hesitation or hindrance.
“We have identified at least ten incidents in which republicans have allegedly broken the law since May 2019, including many paramilitary shows of strength. In order to demonstrate that the PSNI is serious about cracking down on this repeated offending it is imperative that the Chief Constable provides a detailed report of action taken in each of these cases to date.’’
Mervyn Storey added:
‘‘The reckless scenes witnessed at the funeral of Eamonn McCourt have highlighted the folly of the PSNI’s attempts to negotiate with republicans during the pandemic. Promise after promise has been broken and breach after breach gone unchallenged.
“It is disgraceful than the police are ‘negotiating’ with republican organisers in advance of gatherings. The only engagement with organisers should be to warn them of the law and the consequences if they breach it.
“It was clear from a Facebook post by the organisers that ‘the cemetery will be open to all . . up the ra’ that rules were going to be ignored. At that point the policing operation should have been about evidence gathering and prosecutions.
“Sadly this trend even predates Covid. Of the eight funerals we have raised with the Chief Constable three took place in 2019. Many investigations into alleged breaches by republicans have either been quietly abandoned or resulted in little to no further action.
“Members of the public are rightly demanding an end to this softly-softly approach. Absolutely nobody should be above the law and it is high time the police started holding republicans to account.”