It is quiet something that ACC Alan Todd has been moved to such a point whereby he felt compelled to issue a statement seeking to clarify the PSNI’s actions around the invasion of east Belfast on 11 July 2018.
It is no secret that the PSNI press office is all over the place and has recently been responsible for a number of embarrassing gaffes. It is not clear whether ACC Todd’s statement was issued at the urging of the so called ‘communications department’, or whether it was plan of his own making, either way it is hugely embarrassing for the PSNI and rather than shutting down the story, the statement has actually opened the PSNI up to even more humiliating questions.
Despite seeking to slither away through cracks by virtue of ACC Todd’s statement, the PSNI do make a significant concession, namely they are forced to admit for the first time that they did have plans drawn up to invade east Belfast and also that they did tell loyalists the opposite on Friday 6 July 2018. This could, and probably should, signal the end of any right thinking community worker within the unionist community engaging with the PSNI.
In his statement ACC Todd directly addresses the key issue exposed by the Irish News on 10 September 2018 in relation to the fact PSNI advised community representatives they had no intention, nor knowledge of plans to move into the bonfire sites. ACC Todd said;
“Police informed those concerned that no such interventions were planned for that weekend”.
This is a plainly disingenuous attempt to create some wriggle room for the PSNI by adding in ‘for that weekend’. It is an extremely poor attempt by some amateur in the PSNI communications department to engage in ‘spin’. They have only managed to spin themselves further into their own web. We quote verbatim from the independent bonfire report;
“On that afternoon, JR received a call from a Belfast city councillor in relation to rumours that were circulating in the area that police had been drafted in to go on to the Walkway to protect contractors who had been send in to remove bonfire material. In the room with the councillors were members of the local community, JR reassured all of those in the room that he was not aware of any such plan but that he would get the District Commander to speak to them immediately. JR rang the District Commander who confirmed that this was not the case and agreed to phone the councillor and the local representatives to dispel any of their fears. This took place without delay. It was obvious however that tensions within the local community were beginning to rise.”
It is clear that the independent report makes no mention of the PSNI adding in the caveat that their lack of planning to invade east Belfast only applied to that weekend, rather it is clear that the PSNI had told independent mediators, elected members and community representatives that they had no knowledge of any plans to stage an intervention.
Of course, ACC Todd then goes on to contradict himself within his own statement when he further states;
“Whilst police had planned for such a contingency…”
If PSNI had- in ACC Todd’s words- ‘planned for such a contingency’ then did this plan explicitly state that it wasn’t to be applied over the weekend? This is the implication if we follow ACC Todd’s ludicrous statement through to its logical conclusion.
Of course the pretence that the PSNI had no active plans to invade east Belfast over that weekend is plainly false. They had already advised their former colleague, Belfast City Council officer Nigel Grimshaw that they had drafted in extra officers ready to move in.
This plan was only halted when the community became aware of their secret plans and essentially caught them in the act. They then had to go back to the drawing board, which they did by calling a meeting for the following morning (Saturday July 7 2018) and at that point contrived the plan of going to court to shift the blame from the council and onto DFI.
ACC Todd’s statement is also littered with other factual inaccuracies. He refers to the contractors as if they were hired by DFI. They were not. These contractors were sourced and brought in by Belfast City Council, directly under the guidance of Mr Grimshaw. They were imposed on DFI, not tasked by them.
ACC Todd also refers to the PSNI asked by the landowner to move into Cluan Place. This is yet another lie. It was PSNI and Belfast City Council in the form of Mr Grimshaw driving the invasion of Cluan Place and undermining DFI’s attempts to find a community solution. I quote verbatim from the independent report;
“DfI official that stated that no more time could be given because Council and police wanted to move without delay.”
Therefore it is clear that it was not DFI driving this, and nor were the PSNI some innocent by stander reluctantly asked to move in. They were directing the process and actively placing pressure on the land owner. This was a pincher movement deployed against DFI with former PSNI commander Mr Grimshaw working hand in glove with the PSNI to overwhelm reluctant DFI officials.
It is also my understanding that PSNI had a copy of the independent report on 10 August 2018 from 16:41 onwards. The PSNI did not challenge the contents of the report in any shape or form. It is only when the report has leaked into the public domain that they have all of a sudden tried to spin their role in events into a more acceptable public narrative.
The loyalist community faced tough questions after the 11/12 July. I, on behalf of EBCI, opened myself up for an extensive live interview on the Stephen Nolan show which lasted approximately 40 minutes and scrutinised the actions of loyalists in forensic detail. Instead of deploying some amateur spin doctor from the communications department to draft a statement (which incidentally has done more harm than good), perhaps ACC Todd could open himself up to a similar live forensic analysis of the PSNI’s actions.