HC Deb 15 May 1985 vol 79 cc149-50W
Mr. Michael Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the investigation into the events which took place during the parade in Belfast on the afternoon of 12 August 1984.

Mr. Hurd

I have received a report from the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary on the investigation into the events surrounding the so-called anti-internment parade in Belfast last August 12. The investigation was supervised by Mr. Philip Myer, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, who has assured me that the enquiry has been fully and most competently carried out.

Arising from those events, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland has directed a charge of manslaugher against a reserve constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and a lesser charge against another member of the force. Disciplinary action is being considered in other cases.

Those are matters for the courts and the disciplinary procedures of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Since the events evoked widespread concern at the time, I wish to make a brief comment on the broader aspects of public policy. First, this parade was one of which the police had not been given the proper notice as required by law. This is no mere legal technicality. The purpose of notice is to enable the police to make arrangments for the keeping of order. It was, however, a primary objective of Provisional Sinn Fein to make that task as difficult as possible for the police. That objective was largely successful, to the extent that the police were unable to arrest Martin Galvin, against whom an exclusion order from the United Kingdom had been made.

Secondly, controversy has centred on the reaction of the police in the moments following Mr. Gavin's appearance on the speaker's rostrum. The Chief Constable's report identified shortcomings in the preparatory planning for control of the parade, and errors of judgment and insufficiently firm command on the ground. The organisational and tactical lessons of this will, I am sure, be well learned. I understand that the Chief Constable has taken action within the force to remedy the position and to ensure that the same weaknesses of command and control do not recur.

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