Northern Ireland news

Independent councillor Padraig McShane given suspended jail term for assaulting police officer at Orange Order parade in Ballycastle

Padraig McShane leaves Ballymena Magistrates Court after receiving a suspended jail sentence. Picture by Mark Jamieson

AN independent councillor has been given a suspended jail term for assaulting a police officer and other offences at an Orange Order parade in Ballycastle.

Padraig McShane (45) was involved in a confrontation with Dervock Young Defenders band during the return leg of a July 12 parade last year.

Ballymena Magistrates Court heard that when police intervened he assaulted an officer and ended up on the ground before being arrested.

Video footage from the day, which was posted widely on social media, showed him being led away with blood on his head.

The Causeway Coast and Glens councillor, a former member of Sinn Féin, contested the case but was convicted of assaulting and resisting the police officer and disorderly behaviour.

He was also found guilty of organising and taking part in an unnotified 'protest meeting' on the outward leg of the parade.

McShane, of Beechwood Avenue in the Co Antrim town, was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for three years.

A prosecutor told the court that he had initially directed protesters onto a road at Altananam Park and in the afternoon was observed to be "aggressive and confrontational" with a band.

The lawyer said members of the band were also displaying signs of aggression and the councillor was "shouting and using foul language" before he pushed a police officer on the chest and landed on top of the constable on the ground.

Defence barrister Mark Bassett said there had been a peaceful protest at Altananam Park and the defendant was observing the march to see if the Parades Commission needed to be made aware of any matters of concern.

He said there had been clear attempts by the councillor to remain separate from the group and although there had been "some heated words" with police, on the whole he had acted as a calming influence.

Regarding the later flare-up close to the Diamond in the centre of Ballycastle, Mr Bassett said McShane suffered a "loss of composure following significant provocation by members of the Dervock band".

The barrister said members were wearing face masks and individuals "may have been drunk" and there were insults and a reference to the councillor's house being burned down.

Mr Bassett added that the councillor had a "long and admirable history of public service" and a very limited previous record.

District Judge Peter King said McShane had been on bail since 2016 and there had been no further offending or issues.

He said the custody threshold had been crossed but he was going to suspend the sentence as there was limited injury caused to the police officer.

Bail of £500 was fixed for appeal against conviction and sentence.

Earlier this year other protesters received fines in relation to the parade, while a band supporter was fined for making an offensive gesture.

McShane left the court without making any comment.

Padraig McShane pictured after his arrest in Ballycastle on July 12 2016

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