Kevin Collins, a member of the Rasharkin Residents Collective, believes he was deliberately arrested on Friday because he was due to take part in a nationalist protest organised to oppose the parade.
A Volkswagen car belonging to the 34-year-old’s wife was burnt out in the Churchfields area in the early hour sof Wednesday morning, hours after the Parades Commission placed restrictions on the number of bands allowed to take part in the parade through the mainly nationalist village. It was understood to have been a sectarian attack.
Mr Collins, senior manager with St Mary’s hurling club in Rasharkin and former county hurler, said he was arrested at 4.30pm — minutes before a street hurling competition he had organised was to begin. The long-planned competition was set to clash with the loyalist parade, adding to tensions in the town.
He was released at around 9pm.
“I was sitting on a bench in the middle of Rasharkin holding a few hurling sticks when the RUC/PSNI surrounded me and told me I was being arrested in connection with the arson attack on my wife’s car,” Mr Collins said.
“I couldn’t believe it because I believe the attack was sectarian and linked to the Parades Commission determination [to reduce the number of loyalist bands].
“I was at home and in bed with my wife and our two-year-old daughter was sleeping beside us.
“I had to carry my children from that house and get my wife out while wearing my underwear… my family’s life was at risk, my house was even damaged by the fire.”
Mr Collins said the RUC/PSNI “wanted me off the streets”.
His lawyer, Niall Murphy, said his client intends to take a civil case for wrongful arrest and unlawful detention and lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman.
“To arrest a man for arson of his own car, in a week of such heightened sectarian tension, unfortunately displays the police to have adopted a partisan approach in the matter,” he said.
“No evidence whatsoever was put to Mr Collins during interview. Rather, his arrest was justified solely on the basis of ‘police intelligence’.
“Far from investigating this serious criminal offence police have instead sought to aggravate the victim.”
Unionist politicians had protested angrily over restrictions placed on the Rasharkin parade. On the day of the parade, DUP Minister Nelson McCausland described one nationalist group, the Rasharkin Residents’ Collective, as “thugs” and “dissidents”.
A spokesperson for the village said the village had been “locked down” for most of the day for a police operation that had cost tens of thousands of pounds.
He said part of the Parades Commission determination — to prevent the waving of unionist paramilitary flags — had been ignored.
“We have collated evidence of this and believe that the Commission and the PSNI must take this kind of intimidation seriously by reprimanding the parade organisers for allowing this to take place.”
Story source Irish Republican News