Derry cleans up after the worst rioting seen in the city for years

 

DERRY was cleaning up yesterday after three days of the worst rioting seen in the city for years. Council workers moved barricades of burnt out vehicles offstreets near the Bogside and businesses set about repairing property damaged by stone throwing and fire.

A 16 year old injured by two plastic bullets remained in a critical condition at Altnagelvin Hospital. Six others were still being treated for injuries, mostly to the head. A huge protest rally in Guild Hall Square on Sunday evening dispersed peacefully and the night passed without incident.

An expectant crowd, smaller than on previous nights, gathered at the Bogside early on Monday morning, but the police kept a careful distance and this time there were no attempts to engage them.

Locals rejected the RUC's estimate that damage in the city had run into millions of pounds. Apart from hijacked vehicles - there were a dozen used in the Bogside barricades alone - the worst damaged properties were a pub and paintshop which were completely burnt out.

A Royal Mail office was closed yesterday, having suffered extensive fire damage. Several other city centre businesses, including a branch of the First Trust bank, also remained closed for repairs.

Meanwhile, the chairman of an area partnership based in Derry's loyalist Fountain estate expressed hope that harmony could be restored between the city's two communities when tensions engendered by Drumcree fell.

But Mr George Glenn also said he feared that EU money bound for area partnerships like the Fountain and the Creggan could be diverted to pay for the damage caused during the riots.

Even if the relative calm of yesterday continues for the rest of this month, Derry is already bracing itself for more and possibly worse trouble on August 10th.

The city's Apprentice Boys plan to march along the city walls on the Saturday nearest their traditional holiday of August 12th, a feat they achieved last year after the RUC removed several hundred protesters from a stretch of the wall. But the last few days have featured repeated warnings from Sinn Fein and other quarters that no such march will be allowed this year.

Sinn Fein yesterday claimed to have played a big part in quelling the three day disturbances. Speaking after the funeral of Dermot McShane, ardchomhairle member, Mr Martin McGuinness, said party activists had been "on the ground" over the weekend urging calm. Republicans had also been present in the Bogside on Sunday night to prevent further trouble, he added.

The party wanted to keep the focus on the British government and the unionist parties, he said, but he claimed the main reason for urging an end to rioting was the extent of injuries he had witnessed among the protesters.

He contrasted the use of thousands of plastic bullets against nationalist demonstrators with the "symbolic" use of plastic bullets; against protesting Orangemen: "I've been to Altnagelvin Hospital over the weekend and seen the injuries and I believe we are extremely fortunate that we're not standing in this cemetery burying four or five young people."

Asked about the bomb at Enniskillen, Mr McGuinness said in the absence of a claim of responsibility, he could be "nothing but suspicious" about what had happened.