North sees second night of violence

 

The PSNI said today 16 police officers were injured in rioting in Belfast last night in the wake of the Twelfth of July Orange Order parades.

Fourteen people have so far been arrested in relation to the disorder at the notorious Ardoyne flashpoint in the north of the city and in the nationalist Markets area in the south, police announced.

A further 12 people were detained in connection with rioting in Derry.

None of the officers suffered life-threatening injuries, with most receiving flesh wounds or concussion.

Police said calm was restored to the area during the early hours of this morning.

It was the second successive night police were targeted, with 22 officers injured when violence broke out on Monday night in the nationalist areas of Broadway, Old Park and North Queen Street in the west of Belfast.

The violence directed towards police over the last 48 hours has emanated from mainly republican areas.

Last night petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and fireworks were hurled at officers and cars were set alight in the Ardoyne, which has a history of sectarian clashes.

In response, police in riot gear fired about 55 baton rounds and high-powered water cannon at crowds of around 200 to 300 mainly young people in the Estoril Park and Brompton Park areas.

Some officers were set alight briefly when hit by petrol bombs and targeted by lasers, while a local photographer was hit by a baton round.

Nine people - eight males and a female - were arrested following disorder in the Ardoyne area.

Five, including the woman, have been charged with riotous behaviour and a 12-year-old boy has been reported to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS). The three other men remain in custody.

Five people were arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour in the Stewart Street area of the Markets. All remain in custody.

In Derry there were 11 men and a woman were arrested following the disorder.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay condemned the disorder, which he said had been confined to very small pockets across Northern Ireland.

“The vast area of Northern Ireland was extremely peaceful, yet for these few streets we get headlines of violence, of people injured, of communities and relationships being broken, and infrastructure and property damaged,” he said. “What we saw was the release of built-up energy, a group of young men engaging in thug-like behaviour, and they will be brought to justice. There will be a follow up operation like last year and people will be brought before the courts.

“It is hugely regrettable that we get to this situation each year. There are a large number of people across community groups, government and faith groups doing a huge amount to reduce the impact and change things for the better. We all need to redouble these efforts and sustain them to get a real and meaningful change for residents of these areas. That is the very least they need and deserve.”

Away from Belfast and Derry, Armagh City and Ballymena, Co Antrim, also experienced public disorder last night. There were also disturbances in Newry, Co Down, when youths threw stones and set tyres on fire.

In Derry, crowds gathered and a van was set ablaze on a flyover close to Free Derry Corner.

North Belfast Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds condemned the rioters. “These people have been intent on attacking the police and wreaking havoc in their own community. Such violence is senseless and has clearly nothing to do with protesting against a parade but is just futile rioting,” he said.

Alliance Party Belfast City Council member Billy Webb said the riots in Ardoyne had caused enormous damage to the local community.

“Residents in the area are the ones who suffer the most with people feeling trapped in the own homes, scared to go out. Bus services are also affected in the area which the vulnerable rely upon,” he said.

“This trouble is putting Northern Ireland in the headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons.”

Irish Congress of Trade Unions assistant general secretary Peter Bunting said: "As far as the outside world is concerned, it does not matter which side is rioting. What counts is the perception that Northern Ireland is unstable and unsafe."

PA