Northern Ireland news

Fisherman tells of shame over assault at Orange march - but denies being sectarian

Geoffrey Chambers, left, apologised for his actions at the Orange march in Portadown
Brendan Hughes

A FISHERMAN has spoken of his remorse over assaulting two men at an Orange march after appearing to mistakenly believe at least one was Catholic.

Geoffrey Chambers said he felt "ashamed" of his actions and has resigned from the Orange Order, but strongly denied being sectarian.

The 60-year-old, of Moneydarragh Road, Annalong in Co Down, last month appeared at Craigavon Magistrates Court where he pleaded guilty to common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The court heard Chambers had no recollection of the incident because he drank six whiskeys beforehand while on strong medication for back problems.

District Judge Bernie Kelly told him that "if you make offensive statements when you are drunk, you cannot claim it's not in you".

The judge also said that "you can tell your probation officer you do not have a sectarian bone in your body but it's a lie".

She added: "Did you really think people in a car supporting the parade would be of another faith?"

But speaking to The Irish News yesterday, Chambers said: "I have plenty of Catholic friends. I would hate them to think I have a problem with Catholics because it's not true at all."

The incident happened on May 6 last year at a march in Portadown to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation.

Chambers, a former canvasser for the TUV whose family runs a fishing business, said he travelled by bus to the march with his local Orange lodge.

The father-of-five said he went with friends to a nearby pub where they drank whiskey before joining the parade.

"Because of my legs and back I dropped out somewhere down the town. I honestly can't remember what happened after that."

Chambers said he was told that while waiting for the return parade, he got into an argument with a motorist who told him not to lean on his vehicle.

"I got hold of him by the collar of his shirt. My son came to get me away. In the process the man's chain broke off his neck, his glasses broke and a couple of buttons came off his shirt," he said.

Chambers said he also knocked glasses off the face of an Orangeman marshalling the parade who arrived later and tried to intervene.

He said the sectarian allegation in the case arose because the motorist claimed he called him a "fenian b*****d".

Chambers said he was "really sorry" for what had happened, but added: "There was definitely no hate crime. The whole thing is blown out of proportion.

"I'm ashamed of what has happened, but it wasn't two people pulled from the jeep, and I wouldn't be a sectarian person whatsoever."

Sentencing last month, the judge told Chambers the "main victim is old enough to be your father" and "the victims just like you, were there to enjoy the spectacle".

The court heard that on July 12 1994, Chambers was also arrested for disorderly behaviour and assaulting a police officer.

The judge said the case was "sufficiently serious" but the defendant "had not offended in over 20 years".

He was ordered to complete 180 hours of community service and pay £898 in compensation.

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