Londonderry MLA Gary Middleton was amongst a DUP delegation that blasted the PSNI’s policing of the funeral of Peggy O’Hara on Saturday branding the force ‘lax’ when dealing with republicans but ‘heavy-handed’ when dealing with loyalists.
Mr Middleton travelled to Belfast on Monday afternoon and joined North Belfast MLAs Nelson McCausland and William Humphrey and Lagan Valley MLA Jonathan Craig in a meeting with the Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris.
Following the meeting Mr McCausland said: “This was a disappointing meeting where answers from the police were in short supply. The police clearly got it wrong with this operation and they should recognise this publicly.
“Everyone can make a mistake but they should learn from that mistake. Unfortunately the PSNI do not seem to have learned from their past mistakes at republican events and they got it wrong once again.
“I accept that with a bomb alert in Lurgan on Saturday morning, resources were stretched but ultimately one land rover with a camera on top was not an adequate answer to the warnings that were issued prior to the funeral.
“We made it clear to the Deputy Chief Constable that there is deep concern in the unionist community and beyond about the policing of republican events in Northern Ireland.
“I welcome the fact that the police are now undertaking a robust investigation of the evidence they gathered. We will be watching to see the results of that investigation and we will certainly be pressing them on this matter at the future Policing Board meetings.
“Whether the PIRA commemoration parade in Castlederg or several more recent republican funerals there is now a perceived inconsistency in the approach of the PSNI.
“With three helicopters in the ownership of the police, it seems very strange that none of them were available for the funeral on Saturday morning. Nor were there any handheld cameras.
“The apparent double standards in relation to loyalist parades and republican funerals has created great anger. The onus is now on the PSNI to ensure that justice is done and is seen to be done.
“The police were slow out of the traps in relation to the funeral of Peggy O’Hara. Despite warnings from my DUP colleagues Gregory Campbell and Gary Middleton about the paramilitary nature of this funeral, the police seemed to only have one camera mounted on a land rover in order to gather evidence. Contrast this to the hand held cameras police officers in North Belfast were using just three feet away from bandsmen.
“I welcome the opportunity to meet with the Deputy Chief Constable to voice our concerns. However the PSNI need to realise that the lax manner in which they deal with republican funerals and the heavy handed way they deal with loyalists have damaged the public’s confidence and their own credibility. They now have the responsibility to address these very real concerns.”