24/06/2013

Culture Minister Injured In Parade Protest

Tensions are rising between Northern Ireland's political parties following an incident at the weekend when Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín was injured by a PSNI vehicle.

The Culture Minister and her party colleague, Gerry Kelly, were at a nationalist residents' protest against an Orange Order parade in the city.

It is understood the accident happened after police arrested a 16-year-old for disorderly behaviour and provocative conduct. When the vehicle, with the teenager inside, began to drive away, Mr Kelly moved in front of the police Land Rover to try and stop it. However, he was forced to cling to the front of the vehicle when it failed to stop.

Ms Ní Chuilín then went to help her colleague but was injured.

She has since been discharged from hospital.

The incident, which happened in the Peter's Hill area of north Belfast on Friday night, has drawn criticism from NI's political parties, with the DUP and UUP criticising the Ministers, and Sinn Féin and the SDLP criticising how the police handled the situation.

The DUP's Jonathan Craig said that the two Sinn Fein members' behaviour had been "unacceptable", while TUV leader Jim Allister accused Mr Kelly of obstructing the police, claiming the incident raised "serious questions about Sinn Fein's supposed commitment to the rule of law".

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness has since spoken about the incident and said he was "concerned" for Mr Kelly.

Speaking to 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."

Maginness, who witnessed the incident, added that Kelly was not trying to obstruct police.

The PSNI said the Police Ombudsman is investigating Friday's incident.

(JP/CD)

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