Call for calm after North riots
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson have appealed for calm after the latest sectarian rioting in Belfast, which saw 29 police officers being injured after they were attacked with fireworks, bricks and other missiles.
Tonight protests are taking place in east Belfast and the PSNI has warned motorists to avoid the area.
Violence broke out yesterday between republicans and loyalists returning from a protest at Belfast City Hall over a council decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag over the building.
PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott praised his “courageous” colleagues, adding that the vast majority of people were grateful for their efforts.
Senior politicians from Belfast, Dublin and London are to meet next week to discuss the protests after more than 40 days of road blocks and sporadic violence by loyalists failed to produce a solution. Mr
Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness will join Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore for talks.
This afternoon, Mr Kenny
appealed for a halt to the violence. “This is destroying the economy of Belfast and destroying the reputation of Northern Ireland,” he told RTE Radio today.
He said the conflict highlighted the importance of maintaining the focus on the peace process.
“The political process has to deal with very diverse groups who are causing real trouble in the sense of destroying all the good work that has been done,” he said. “We can’t allow this to happen, we won’t let it happen, because there is no reverting to the disasters of the past.”
Mr Robinson said earlier the only way to end the violence is through the political process. He condemned those responsible for injuring dozens of police officers and costing the local economy millions but said protesters had become alienated. “There are political issues and people that feel disengaged and people that feel if we are trying to build a shared future they are not getting their share,” he said.
Mr Robinson, who represents east Belfast where the violence has been fiercest, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show those throwing petrol bombs did not support his party.
“While we have been able to tackle the issue of getting political structures up we needed to win the support of the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland,” he said. “We had to show them that devolution worked. It is no accident that the violence is occurring predominantly in those areas that are considered to be suffering from deprivation. The only way forward is through the political process that has been endorsed overwhelmingly by the people in Northern Ireland. It won’t change anything to be involved in violence.”