Police at Woodburn to ‘facilitate peaceful protest’

Oliver McMullan.
Oliver McMullan.

Police say they will continue to review resourcing levels at the Woodburn drill site.

It follows a Sinn Fein claim the PSNI presence at the location “seems excessive”.

Commenting on the operation to date, Chief Inspector Stephen McCauley said: “Our priority continues to be ensuring the safety of all concerned at the Woodburn site whilst trying to keep everyday life running as normally as possible around it.

“We are constantly reviewing the resourcing profile of police officers and the police numbers in this area, however we are committed to using whatever resources are necessary to police this protest activity. We will continue to ensure that we have enough resources to respond to all eventualities.

“Police remain at the location to ensure there is no breach of the peace and to facilitate peaceful protest. While the majority of protest activity to date has been well within the law, the recent actions of some protestors have gone beyond what can be accurately described as ‘peaceful and lawful protest’.

“Where offences are being committed or where actions may lead to a breach of the peace, it is incumbent upon police to intervene and address these issues as they occur.

“As a police service we respect the rights of people to protest as long as it is within the parameters of the law. Anyone who chooses to participate in the protest should do so peacefully. We will continue to monitor the situation and engage with all interested parties moving forward.”

The chief inspector’s comments were in response to a statement from East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan, who is to air concerns with police senior command.

Mr McMullan said; “A number of people have raised concerns with me about the policing operation of the protest against the ongoing drilling at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus.

“There can be up to six police vehicles at Woodburn at any given time which seems excessive given the protest in place there against the drilling is orderly and law abiding.

“Given the pressures on policing budgets, the money spent policing Woodburn could be much better spent focusing on tackling crime in our communities.

“I will be contacting the PSNI commander in the area to discuss these concerns and to see what can be done about ensuring the police response is appropriate.”