Police injured during third night of violence in Belfast
Chief Constable felt compelled to draft in more than 1,000 British officers to assist PSNI deal with parading violence
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott. Picture: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has described the actions of some Orange Order leaders as “reckless” after a Twelfth of July weekend that resulted in scores of his officers being injured in mainly loyalist violence.
Police came under attack in the Woodvale area in a third night of violence in north Belfast last night. PSNI officers were attacked with petrol bombs and other missiles while police responded by firing a number of plastic bullets. At least one officer was injured. There was also rioting in Newtownabbey on the outskirts of north Belfast last night where police arrested five men.
Fierce rioting on Friday night left 32 officers injured, some of them seriously, while more sporadic violence in the Woodvale area on Saturday injured seven officers.
During the violence, rioters attacked police lines with petrol bombs, bricks, bottles, ceremonial swords, golf balls and fireworks. On Saturday night at Woodvale, a police officer was hit by a petrol bomb.
The North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, who was knocked unconscious when struck by a brick fired by a loyalist on the Woodvale Road on Friday night, was released on Saturday from the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Mr Baggott felt compelled to draft in an additional 400 British officers on Saturday, in addition to the 630 already called in from England, Scotland and Wales to help his officers. At least two of the British officers were injured in the violence, with one suffering a broken leg.
Chairman of the North’s Police Federation, Terry Spence said the PSNI might not have been able to cope but for the visiting officers. He said they had been dealing with “disorder on a magnitude and degree of viciousness they would rarely have seen” and “without their help . . . we may well have been overwhelmed”.
Political recrimination continued over the weekend with Sinn Féin and the SDLP blaming the Orange Order for inflaming passions while unionist politicians responded that the Parades Commission must bear some of the responsibility for the violence by its decision to ban north Belfast Orangemen marching by the shops in the nationalist Ardoyne on Friday night.
The Assembly has been recalled from its summer recess at the request of the DUP to discuss the Parades Commission determination.
Early on Saturday following the Twelfth night violence, the Orange Order “suspended” its protests. It had said last week that widespread protests would ensue from the Commission ruling while the Twelfth would not conclude until the Orangemen were allowed past the Ardoyne shops.
On Saturday Mr Baggott said the violence was “shameful and disgraceful”. He was also directly critical 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,” he said.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore praised the PSNI and said the violence was “an affront to the decent people” of Belfast and Ireland.
The North’s Minister of Justice David Ford has warned rioters “that they will be brought to justice quickly”.