Legal action over curfew

MORE than 700 residents of Belfast’s lower Ormeau Road are to sue for false imprisonment after last week’s RUC curfew of the area during an Orange march. The 700 adults, representing 550 homes, are to take legal action against the RUC Chief Constable, the Ministry of Defence and the Rev Martin Smyth, head of the Orange Order. And lower Ormeau residents are also seeking a court injunction to prevent a repetition of the curfew during another march scheduled for August 10. Residents yesterday gave statements to a team of solicitors and it is understood the writs, claiming unlawful detention and false imprisonment, will be lodged in Belfast high court this morning. Every street in the mainly nationalist area was sealed off for over 24 hours during a massive security operation as police forced a July 12 Orange march down the lower Ormeau Road. Television viewers witnessed distressing scenes on Friday as residents were forced to clamber over RUC Land-Rovers to get to the shops. In many cases, people were unable to leave their homes at all, although restricted movement was permitted after the Orange demonstration had passed through the area. The curfew was lifted after marchers had returned using a route which touched on the periphery of the district. It is understood today’s high court test case will involve Sean Beckett, the man who appeared on television screens as he squeezed through a tiny gap between his doorway and the top of a police vehicle. A spokesman for Madden and Finucane Solicitors confirmed that a test case will be presented in the high court this morning. The spokesman said: “We are also seeking an injunction to restrain those named defendants from acting in a similar manner on August 10.” Meanwhile the Irish News has learned that lower Ormeau community activist Gerard Rice has started legal proceedings over remarks made on Monday’s BBC Newsnight programme. Mr Rice is suing a panel member over allegations made on the live programme. He is also suing the programme’s makers, claiming he was not given a chance to reply to the allegations.