PSNI chief blames ‘New IRA’ for orchestrating Derry disorder
Force says it is ‘a miracle’ no officers were killed as explosives and petrol bombs hurled
The scene on Fahan street in Derry on Thursday night as disorder flared in the city for a sixth successive night following an Orange Order parade as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
The so-called “New IRA” is the primary dissident republican group orchestrating rioting and attempts to murder police officers in Derry, PSNI chief constable George Hamilton has said.
He added that members of other extremist dissident organisations were also involved in stirring up six successive nights of violence in Derry’s Bogside. Many of those engaging in the violence are youths, some not even in their teens.
Police said two explosive devices and 74 petrol bombs were hurled at officers on Thursday night, in the hours after the city hosted Twelfth of July Orange Order parades. The PSNI said it was a “miracle” that no officers were injured. Members of the public were also targeted in the violence.
Three men were arrested, one on suspicion of attempted murder and riot police fired four baton rounds during the disturbances in the republican neighbourhood.
A rally was held in Derry on Friday to give people from both sides of the community divide an opportunity to demonstrate their collective opposition to the disorder.
‘Matter of time’
Speaking after being briefed by local commanders in Derry, Mr Hamilton warned that if the violence continued it was “only a matter of time” before someone was killed.
“We believe violent dissident republican groups are behind this, they will use whatever excuse they can to bring about unrest and to have young people involve themselves in violence against the police,” he told reporters.
“We believe there are members of a variety of dissident groupings in this disorder — the so-called New IRA is probably the primary grouping behind this disorder and behind these threats to police and these murderous attacks on police.
“If this continues, it’s only a matter of time before a police officer or a child or young person involved in this violence gets very seriously injured or worse.”
The majority of the missiles were aimed at police stationed on the city walls overlooking the Bogside and on Fahan Street leading to the city centre.
Large groups of hooded youths lined the streets of the Bogside from 9pm, carrying petrol bombs in shopping bags before starting a makeshift bonfire at the bottom of a busy flyover in an apparent attempt to draw police into the area.
During a press conference, Mr Hamilton was challenged on why police were seemingly reluctant to deploy officers into the Bogside during the rioting.
He said those behind the violence were trying to draw police in.
“We don’t want to be fighting with anyone, we use balanced judgment when to go in and when to stay out and operational decisions are made on a routine basis,” he said. “I’m not saying we always get it right but we certainly won’t condone unlawfulness, we will pursue those who break the law and bring them before the courts.”
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, who held talks with community leaders in Derry on Friday, said the rioters would not break the people of the Bogside. She said the dissidents were on the “road to nowhere” and rejected any suggestion that they were true republicans.
“This is a deliberate strategy by those who style themselves as dissidents to mislead children and cause fear and hardship across the community.”
In a Twitter post, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “Really disturbing scenes last night in Londonderry. Someone will be killed if this continues. The main Party Leaders have jointly called for rioting to end. The police are risking life & limb trying to tackle this. All violence must be condemned.”
There were also scenes of violence in Belfast this week, with loyalists blamed for disorder on Wednesday night. Masked men hijacked and torched vehicles amid anger about moves to reduce the size of two loyalist Eleventh Night bonfires.
Soldiers took to the streets of Belfast on Friday to help in the clear-up operation following bonfires linked to the Twelfth of July celebrations. Wearing masks, the military were hired by contractors working in unmarked vehicles to remove wood and other debris from two bonfire sites in the east of the city.
The soldiers were reportedly brought into Northern Ireland especially for the task and the unnamed contractors are to be paid a five figure sum. They were guarded by PSNI patrols as they carried out the work. - PA