Councillors call for human rights groups to investigate PSNI operations in Derry estate

Derry and Strabane Council have agreed to ask two human rights organisations – the NI Human Rights Commission and the Committee on the Administration of Justice – to conduct an immediate investigation into recent PSNI operations in the Creggan area of Derry.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 9:03 am

Police have been accused of using ‘heavy-handed’ tactics, including towards women, during the search operation in the Ballymagowan area recently, which was part of an operation aimed at targeting activities of dissident republican group New IRA.

Independent Councillor Sean Carr proposed that the council write to the two bodies asking them to investigate complaints made in relation to the Creggan operation about ‘inappropriate police tactics against women and vulnerable children’.

Colr. Carr claimed: “Following the incidents in Creggan, and this wasn’t an isolated incident, it has been going on for quite some time, there have been other women and children injured at the hands of the PSNI, I believe all these incidents should be looked at by an external body.  I believe an independent body like the NI Human Rights Commission and the Committee on the Administration of Justice should be asked by Council to come in and investigate these incidents which have been going on in the Creggan area.”

Independent Colr Sean Carr proposed the motion, which was backed by among others Sinn Fein Colr Tina Burke but opposed by DUP Ald. Graham Warke.

Responding to Councillor Carr, DUP Alderman Graham Warke claimed: “The police aren’t the problem here, the ‘New IRA’ are. They show total disregard for any human rights in the community and where is the challenge from our politicians in this Chamber now towards them? They are carrying out shootings, they are carrying out bombings.

“The PSNI are there to protect the community and that’s what they are trying to do. They are trying to get dangerous people off the streets.”

Sinn Féin Colr. Tina Burke welcomed an investigation from the Human Rights Commission. Responding to Alderman Warke she added: “We as a party do not condone the ‘New IRA’ and we have been very vocal about that. The issue we are dealing with now is the actions of the police and that’s what we need to address.”

SDLP Colr. John Boyle offered his party’s support, welcoming any opportunity for the people of the Creggan to ‘have their voice heard’.

Independent Colr Gary Donnelly supported the motion saying: “I’m a proud Creggan man and a proud Republican. Creggan is a place that gets a lot of bad press but I would like to say I would live nowhere else. What has happened there is an attack on the Creggan.

“The Creggan has a proud history of Republicanism; of opposing that State and all of the injustices and the PSNI are at the front line of protecting that State and they will inflict collective punishment on that community,” he claimed.

Councillor Carr’s motion was passed with 31 councillors voting in favour, six against with two Councillors abstaining.

Speaking in response, PSNI Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones, Area Commander for Derry City and Strabane said: “I strongly refute the allegations made and I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Committee on the Administration of Justice. I have and will continue to meet with any elected representative to discuss how police are working to keep our community safe.”

He claimed that there was an ‘outbreak of disorder’ during the operation in Creggan “in which petrol bombs were thrown at my officers.”

He said a number of people have been charged in connection with these incidents, while a woman was arrested for alleged public order offences and released a short time later and “will be dealt with by way of a report to the Public Prosecution Service.”

He added: “When police are carrying out operations such as this one, a thorough community impact assessment along with other checks and balances is carried out to ensure our actions are compliant with Human Rights Legislation and we are acting within the rule of law.”

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter