Northern Ireland

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin says parades are policed impartially in Northern Ireland

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme
Image caption Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme

A senior police officer has said parades are policed impartially in Northern Ireland.

It follows the use of CS spray at a junior Orange Order parade in south Belfast and masked republicans marching during Easter Rising centenary events.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme.

"I can tell you that I police those [parades] in an impartial, consistent way," he said.

"Yes I have to make different decisions based on different contexts, unfortunately we are a divided society where often it comes down that if I'm celebrating, you will condemn, and vice versa, these are difficult decisions."

On Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster said she did not believe there is a two-tier policing in Northern Ireland.

She said the PSNI need to get to the bottom of issues "causing concern" but it had a "very difficult job to do".

Mrs Foster said it was important to "establish the facts" around the parade on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast on Tuesday.

Ch Supt Chris Noble said police had used CS spray during the junior Orange Order parade after coming under attack by adult band members.

The parade's organiser, Noel Liggett, claimed the spray was "indiscriminately" used after police confronted the parade.

Mr Liggett said the spray caused children to have swollen eyes and lips.

The police said two officers received minor injuries during a "minor disturbance". A 26-year-old man has been charged with assault.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Christian King, 12, said he was left with itchy eyes after CS spray was used during the junior Orange Order parade on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast on Tuesday

Police are investigating three parades commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising in Lurgan, County Armagh; Coalisland, County Tyrone and Ardoyne in Belfast.

Unionists complained after masked men paraded through Lurgan on Saturday and marchers wore paramilitary-style uniform in Coalisland on Sunday.

'Burning'

On Friday, a 12-year-old boy said he was left with itchy eyes after CS spray was used during the junior Orange Order parade on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast on Tuesday.

However, Christian King said it would not stop him from marching again.

"It started stinging and burning so I tried to open them and it really hurt," he added.

"We rang the hospital and they told us to go to the opticians. "They said I was lucky that I did not lose my sight.

"I wouldn't want it to happen again, but I definitely would go out again."

A delegation of unionist councillors from the south Belfast area also met with senior police officers to discuss the policing of the junior Orange Order parade.

"We highlighted the concerns expressed to us by our constituents about the contrasting approaches taken in recent public order situations," they said.

"We made clear to the representatives of the PSNI that pro-active efforts will need to be made to restore confidence in policing to the highest levels: something that we all would like to see."

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