John Aughey, aged 61, was granted bail on strict conditions after appearing in court accused of trying to kill Phoebe Clawson and Róisín McGlone in the nationalist Ardoyne area, in the midst of disturbances on Monday night. He is due in court again in four weeks.
After the collision, Ms Clawson, 16, was trapped under Mr Aughey’s vehicle and police and residents had to lift and flip it off her. She is in a stable condition in hospital having suffered multiple broken bones. Ms McGlone’s injuries were not as serious.
The incident on the Crumlin Road happened as loyalists rioted in the nearby unionist Woodvale area after police prevented an Orange parade from proceeding along a contested stretch of road beside the Ardoyne.
Mr Aughey’s vehicle collided with nationalists assembled at Ardoyne near to the sectarian interface.
During a remand hearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, the accused’s solicitor said his client had repeatedly expressed regret : “This is a matter which is highly regrettable and is profoundly regretted by the defendant.”
But the lawyer questioned the appropriateness of the charges. He claimed the alleged offences were not of the gravity of attempted murder and could be better characterised as allegations of dangerous driving.
The court heard Mr Aughey of Brae Hill Park, north Belfast, was active in a long-running protest against a ban on Orangemen parading past Ardoyne at the end of July 12 commemorations.
A police officer referred to a number of media reports of interviews and statements given by Mr Aughey regarding the dispute centring on the Ardoyne/Woodvale interface at Twaddell Ave.
“This man is committed to pursuing protests at Twaddell,” the officer told district judge Fiona Bagnall. He claimed the accused was engaged in “provocative conduct” minutes before the collision, with eyewitnesses reporting he was “verbally abusing nationalist residents through the window of his own car”.