TWO MEN arrested in connection with the murder of Ronan Kerr last week have threatened to sue following the high security operation in Mid Ulster last week.
Six people were arrested across Co Tyrone and south Derry in a mammoth PSNI operation involving more than 200 police officers.
Publican Declan McNally, whose home and business were targeted in the dawn raids, said it had caused ‘untold damage’ to his reputation. And he called the arrests a ‘publicity stunt’.
The son of former Sinn Fein councillor Francie McNally was released the following day after he claimed detectives failed to produce any evidence against him.
Mr McNally said the manner in which the raids were carried out - with 50 officers descending on McNally’s Inn at Toomebridge and his home in Ballyronan had ‘sullied the reputation’ of his family.
“This was nothing more than a high-profile publicity stunt,” he told the Irish News.
“This may have been carried out by the PSNI but it was an RUC-style raid with an RUC agenda.”
Mr McNally said his two small children were ‘dragged from their beds and forced to leave their homes at seven in the morning in just their nightwear in a highly distressed state.”
“I was taken away in handcuffs and held overnight without so much as a single shred of evidence against me.
“While my solicitor is looking at what our next step will be with regards to taking legal action, nothing can repair the damage caused to my reputation.
“I run a family friendly restaurant and bar that caters for all sections of the community. What kind of message do you think it sends out to our customers when they see the premises surrounded by police in boiler suits.
“I would hope that the political members of the District Policing Partnership will be raising the appalling manner in which this publicity stunt was carried out, which is hardly the new style of policing we’ve been promised.”
Solicitor Peter Corrigan who represents McNally said he has made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman and would be taking a civil action against the PSNI on his client’s behalf.
Also the father of Coalisland man Brian Campbell (23) said he was mystified about his son’s arrest as he had been working in the USA when Constable Kerr was murdered in April.
His father Barney, a well-known figure in Tyrone GAA circles, claims the arrest was an abuse of police power.
Two cars, clothing, mobile phones and other items were removed during the search in Coalisland last week.
Mr Campbell’s father said: “My family home has been shown on television with six Land Rovers parked outside. Now what does that look like to people in the area.
“My son is not long finished university. He’s a qualified quantity surveyor and went to Boston because he couldn’t get any work here.
“Sure he has no interest in politics - he wouldn’t know the first thing about things like that. He’d hardly lift his head he’s that quiet.
“My family have no involvement in anything like that at all.
“The police questioning him weren’t even aware that he wasn’t in the country when the young fellow Kerr was killed.
“Brian said they looked shocked when he told them and yet they still kept him in a cell overnight when this entire thing could have been cleared up in an hour.
“To be honest I think even though [the police] knew they’d got it wrong they held on to him overnight to save face.
“I don’t know what kind of dodgy ‘tip off’ they were acting on or they must have pulled my son’s name out of thin air because there’s no logical reason I can think of for his arrest.”
Solicitor Padraig O Muirigh said he would be issuing legal proceedings against the PSNI on his client’s behalf.
“The arrest appears to have been made on dubious intelligence and without any evidential basis whatsoever. Little thought has been given to the propriety or legality of the methods used by the PSNI in the arrest of my client,” he said.
“My client will be issuing legal proceedings against the Chief Constable for wrongful arrest. A complaint will also be lodged with the Police Ombudsman.”
Chief Constable Matt Baggott defended the arrests after sharp criticism from Mid Ulster MP and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Mr McGuinness had said the events ‘raise very serious questions about the conduct of how that inquiry is continuing’.
Mr Baggott said the Policing Board was the appropriate place for the PSNI’s actions to be scrutinised.
A police spokesperson said: “If anyone has a complaint to make regarding police action they should contact the Police Ombudsman’s office.”
All five arrested last Tuesday in Bellaghy, Toomebridge, Coalisland and Ballyronan were released the next day.
A 23-year-old woman arrested last Wednesday was also released the next day. In relation to that a report is to be sent to the Public Prosecution Service.