Loyalist paramilitaries involved in riot, says PSNI

 

LOYALIST PARAMILITARIES were involved in street violence in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, over the past two nights one of the PSNI’s senior officers has claimed.

Asst Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said his officers were studying CCTV evidence and would move against some of the estimated 200 rioters who hijacked a bus and private cars and who took to the streets of the loyalist area late on Monday and continued past midnight yesterday. Further serious violence erupted last night and more vehicles were hijacked.

Police said youths gathered for a second night and further violence broke out. A bus was taken and set alight at the Cloughfern roundabout area of Rathcoole. Officers also came under attack from an undisclosed number of petrol bombs. Dozens of extra police have been drafted into the area and motorists were advised to avoid the Cloughfern-Station Road area of Newtownabbey.

The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) said some of the rioters had organised themselves by using social networking sites, and there were allegations of heavy-handed searches in the area by the police.

Ken Wilkinson, a local PUP representative, said “the way a lot of these searches were carried out leaves a lot to be desired”.

The police said the searches were part of an ongoing serious crime-branch investigation into a series of murders and other crimes by the UVF, including so-called “historical” crimes still unsolved from the Troubles.

Local police commander Chief Supt Henry Irvine confirmed planned searches had been carried out in the area by the serious crime squad, but denied officers had acted improperly. He said a quantity of drugs were recovered as the searches continued.

A double-decker bus was hijacked and destroyed during the disturbances and its driver assaulted and robbed. Public transport company Translink said it would withdraw all bus services in the estate at the first suggestion of follow-up trouble. Up to six private cars were also taken and burned.

About 150 officers were drafted in from other parts of Northern Ireland to help quell the trouble.

“This was a disgraceful and totally inexcusable orgy of violence,” DUP MP Nigel Dodds said. “If there are concerns and complaints about police actions then there are proper procedures to pursue those through the police ombudsman and other structures. However, it is surely no coincidence that there have been similar recent outbreaks of violence in other parts of Newtownabbey, at New Mossley and Ballyclare, where police searches have taken place.”