16/06/2009

DPP Meeting Disrupted

An Ulster Unionist councillor has been attacked by youths throwing eggs and stones after a ground-breaking District Policing Partnership meeting in east Belfast on Monday night.

Former Belfast mayor, Jim Rodgers was at the meeting in Short Strand Community Centre and said members of the Irish Republican Socialist Party tried to disrupt it.

"There was a masked man on the roof looking into the room through the glass," he said.

"When we left the room, missiles and eggs were thrown at us," he told the BBC this morning.

Mr Rodgers said about 20 people carrying posters supporting the IRSP tried to disrupt the meeting which was attended by 70 people.

The Chairman of the NI Policing Board has condemned those who disrupted the first DPP meeting in the Short Strand Community Centre and threw missiles at the PSNI and DPP Members after the meeting finished.

Barry Gilligan said: "This first meeting of the DPP in the Short Strand was a very positive development and the large turn out from the public very welcome.

"Those behind the disruption and attack afterwards are to be condemned."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's East Belfast Representative Niall Ó Donnghaile has reiterated the republican party's commitment to ensuring a first class civic policing service following the meeting.
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Mr Ó Donnghaile said: "Tonight was the first DPP meeting to take place in the Short Strand, it was about ensuring that people within this community had the opportunity to engage with and hold to account the, PSNI.

"Other people chose to protest and that is their right, I defend that right.

"The reality is however, that the meeting, despite being disrupted for a period, went ahead and people were allowed the chance to question the local PSNI command on issues relating to policing and community safety within this part of the city," he said.

A number of questions were submitted and asked through the medium of Irish, as well as the answers being given in Irish; the meeting itself was opened in Irish by a Gaelic speaking PSNI member.

Issues raised varied from the PSNI strategy to tackling drug dealing in the area, to how they interact with the local children who attend the Irish-speaking school, Gaelscoileanna, to what measures will be put in place to decrease the amount of burglaries in the area.

This is not the first such incident. In November 2007 a DPP meeting was forced out of Belfast's republican Markets area.

Those attending said that even young children were enlisted for the rowdy, intimidatory 'protest' at a meeting of the south-Belfast sub-committee of the city's District Policing Partnership.

DPP Chairman Pat McCarthy, of the SDLP, said about 20 republican protesters holding placards disrupted it.

See: Policing Partnership Meeting Abandoned

(BMcc)

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