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Attacks lead to calls for review on swords

Published 16/07/2013

Marie Louise McCrory

THERE were calls last night for ceremonial swords at Orange marches to be reviewed after the weapons - meant for regalia purposes - were used to attack police.

The swords, which are around 3ft long, are usually carried by a member of the district or county colour party during order parades as a symbol, it is believed, of protecting the colours.

Police yesterday put on display a damaged helmet and broken protective shield as evidence of sword attacks on officers.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr showed reporters a police riot helmet with a large dent across the top of it. He said the helmet had taken the full force of an attack with a sword.

Yesterday a Police Federation spokesman said the damage which can be caused by swords is "pretty obvious" and called for a review.

"Obviously if the swords are going to be used in a potentially lethal way, the whole argument for being purely ceremonial needs to be reviewed," he said.

"The justification for their retention needs to be reviewed."

SDLP policing board member Conall McDevitt said: "I think the issue here is not so much the existence of a ceremonial sword but that any member of the loyal order would want to use it as a lethal weapon," he said.

"We must see the full weight of the law being brought to bear on the individuals who sought to use ceremonial swords as a weapon.

"The big question to me is the Orange Order proves that by handing over the details of all its members who broke the law and by providing every support and assistance to the PSNI to ensure that Orangemen and bandsmen are fully prosecuted and held to account."

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey said the swords were previously used as weapons during rioting at Whiterock in north Belfast in 2005.

"Clearly they are very, very dangerous. If they are being used in this way again then they should be taken away [from Orange-men]," he said.

n 'POTENTIALLY LETHAL': Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr shows the damage caused by Orange Order ceremonial swords PICTURE: Hugh Russell