Unionists call for probe into Gerry Kelly police footage

There has been widespread criticism of high-profile Sinn Fein politician Gerry Kelly after he stood in the way of a PSNI convoy.

It comes after footage emerged of the Sinn Fein MLA being pushed some distance along a road on the front of a PSNI Land Rover, after attempting to stop a number of the vehicles.

The incident occurred around the Carrick Hill area of Belfast after the Tour of the North parade, and was filmed and posted on the internet by Sinn Fein over the weekend.

Sinn Fein issued a statement calling it “dangerous, reckless and provocative”.

But Mr Kelly’s behaviour, and that of some others on the day, has come in for stern criticism amid suggestions that he may have broken the law himself.

Unionists said he appeared to have been obstructing police as they conducted their duties, and the Alliance Party called his behaviour “entirely inappropriate”.

The TUV’s sole MLA Jim Allister said: “I think he should be charged with obstructing the police. He patently was obstructing them.

“The truth is if Willie Frazer had done that, jumped out in front of a Land Rover and grabbed onto it, he would’ve been arrested on the spot.

“So why not Mr Kelly?”

He said he aimed to raise it as a “matter of the day” in Stormont today – a topical issue which is introduced for debate amongst the MLAs.

Mr Frazer, from Families Acting for Innocent Relatives and the Ulster People’s Forum, said: “If anybody else had done what that man did, he’d have been arrested and charged.

“The law has to apply right across the board. They cannot pick and choose who they want to prosecute.”

Mr Frazer has been charged with obstruction himself after being involved in loyalist protests, and said around 30 people had been in touch with him in the wake of the incident involving Mr Kelly.

He added: “These are people who are supposed to be in government, setting an example, telling us they want to live together and they support law and order.”

The DUP issued a statement in which Policing Board member Jonathan Craig MLA said: “The Policing Board holds the police to account for their actions, but it is absolutely unacceptable for any member to attempt to direct or obstruct the police in the execution of their duties.

“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.”

He also criticised the role of Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin, although she does not appear as clearly in the footage.

Meanwhile, the UUP’s Roy Beggs said: “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. We are extremely fortunate that no one was severely injured as a result of Mr Kelly’s actions in obstructing the path of a police vehicle.

“He should be accountable to the law for his irresponsible behaviour. Sinn Fein has to understand that they cannot pick and choose when the law applies.”

In response to these criticisms, Mr Kelly released a statement which said: “The comments from unionist representatives following Friday night’s Orange Order parade are completely hypocritical especially coming after DUP members in particular took part in illegal road blocks and protests over the flag issue.”

Sinn Fein denied claims that the parade had been attacked, and had earlier claimed that nationalist homes in the area had been attacked.

It was also claimed by Sinn Fein that bands had broken the Parades Commissions restrictions. Asked to elaborate, a spokesman for Sinn Fein said: “They played going past Carrick Hill when they were meant to have a single drum beat.”

Mr Kelly’s statement continued: “I would remind Johnathon (sic) Craig and other DUP members of the Policing Board that they are there to hold the police to account not other members of the board.

“On Friday night that is what I was doing, holding the police to account. The Alliance Party’s focus on this should be on those that broke the law, namely the bands.

“Instead of attempting to lecture Sinn Fein on principles they would be better coming out of their ivory towers and seeing what a community like Carrick Hill have to endure during these contentious parades.”

The row has echoes of a similar controversy about law and order in the wake of riots in east Belfast in January.

Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey came under fire for saying on television that if he lived in the Short Strand he would also be throwing stones.

The police press office could not be contacted last night.

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