More police to combat sectarianism in Belfast

 

Police patrolling is to be increased in north Belfast in a bid to better combat continuing sectarian conflict, it was announced today.

Police Service district commander for the area, Chief Superintendent Ms Julie Lindsay, confirmed the security increase after meeting loyalist and community representatives.

She said she had listened to the concerns expressed at the meeting and would meet the group again next week.

It is believed that as well as extra police patrols there will be more troops on foot in interface areas and that static checkpoints will remain in place for longer than at present.

The Northern Ireland Security Minister has recently given the go-ahead for 18 CCTV security cameras to be installed at flashpoint areas and it is now thought they will be in place by the end of June.

The almost nightly clashes continued in north Belfast last night with petrol bombs being hurled at police and army lines trying to keep the rival loyalist and nationalist factions apart.

As they battled for the fourth night running, both sides once more accused each other of starting the trouble.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said at least four devices were hurled at security forces keeping the mobs apart in the Hesketh Road area.

No injuries were reported. Several primed petrol bombs were discovered and destroyed during a follow up operation.

Trouble also flared in the Whitewell area, a part of the city notorious for rioting.

"At least six petrol bombs and a barrage of missiles were thrown during disturbances in the Gunnell Hill and Serpentine Gardens," the spokesman said.

The area was later reported tense but quiet.

Mr Gerard Brophy, a Sinn Féin councillor for north Belfast, blamed Ulster Defence Association members in the loyalist White City estate for the latest outbreak of violence.

"It's the UDA spreading this about, trying to finish the job they started last night," he said. "I stood and watched the petrol bombs coming over myself."

But Mr Brian Dunn, a White City community worker, said nationalists and republicans were intent on dodging the blame.

"There are houses here that have been hit at the back with blast bombs and petrol bombs," he said.

"It seems they (Sinn Féin) are getting in on the act first, putting across that these bombs are coming from White City first.

"But loyalists are simply retaliating."

PA