400 extra police drafted in following Belfast violence

PSNI chief describes overnight rioting as both ‘shameful and disgraceful’

Sat, Jul 13, 2013, 14:12

The PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has drafted in an additional 400 officers from Britain to support his force after the Twelfth of July rioting in Belfast that he described as “shameful and disgraceful”.

A night of fierce and overwhelmingly loyalist rioting resulted in 32 police officers being injured. The North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds was also knocked unconscious when struck by a brick fired by a loyalist during rioting at Woodvale Road in north Belfast. He was released from hospital today.

The Orange Order “suspended” its protests early today following the violence at Woodvale and in other parts of the city including east Belfast. The situation was quiet but tense today as police remained on high alert in case loyalists refused to heed the Orange Order announcement.


Among the 32 officers injured were two British officers, one of whom sustained a broken leg when dealing with the violence involving loyalists and nationalists at the sectarian interface between the loyalist Lower Newtownards Road and the nationalist Short Strand in east Belfast.

At a press conference this morning Mr Baggott disclosed that in addition to the 630 officers already called in from England, Scotland and Wales he has asked for a further 400 British officers to assist his force.

A police representative said the PSNI could have been “overwhelmed” but for the assistance of the British officers who were also in Northern Ireland for the peaceful G8 summit.

Mr Baggott said the violence was “shameful and disgraceful” while adding that some of the leadership from the Orange Order was “reckless”.

When the Parades Commission issued its determination banning three Orange lodges from parading home from the Twelfth parade past the nationalist Ardoyne shops the Order said widespread protests would ensue while the Twelfth would not conclude until the Orangemen were allowed past the shops.

Belfast deputy grand master Spencer Beattie said on Thursday that the protests should be peaceful but added, “The Parades Commission has created this crisis, the consequences rest firmly at their door.”

Vicious and at times frenzied violence erupted when the Orangemen were halted on the Woodvale Road some 300 metres from the Ardoyne shops flashpoint. Mr Baggott was direct in his criticism of some Orange leaders. He said they must “reflect on whether they provided the responsible leadership asked for by myself and by the party leaders”.

“Some of their language was emotive and having called thousands of people to protest they had no plan and no control and, rather than being responsible, I think the word for that is reckless,” said Mr Baggott.

He added: “I cannot praise highly enough this morning the courage, the professionalism and the restraint of my PSNI colleagues, and those from England, Wales and Scotland who joined us in making sure the rule of law was upheld.”

The chairman of the North’s Police Federation, Terry Spence also praised the PSNI and the visiting officers. “These officers demonstrated great courage and professional commitment in volunteering to assist their federated colleagues in the PSNI to deal with major public disorder on a magnitude and degree of viciousness they would rarely have seen. Without their help last night we may well have been overwhelmed.”

Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers condemned the violence and said the way forward must be through dialogue. Rather than suspending the protests the Order should end them. “It is vitally important now for the Orange Order to make very clear that their protest has come to and end,” she said.

“This sort of behaviour does nothing to promote ‘Britishness’ or the pro-union cause. Rather it undermines it in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of people here in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK,” she said.

“I think it is important for everyone to recognise that we need a period of calm and reflection to make sure that we can defuse what continues to be a tense situation. It would be a disastrous if we were to see a recurrence of last night’s scenes over the next few days,” added Ms Villiers.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore praised the PSNI and said the “rule of law must be respected even when people disagree with lawful decisions”. He said “the violence and disrespect for the rule of law we witnessed in Belfast last night is an affront to the decent people of that city and of this island”.